Freddy project update and another mistake

9 11 2012

Firstly, the work-in-progress quilt top, started in the Freddy Moran class and featured in the last post, has been finished.  I must confess that I reverted to some of my old habits as I put the last bits of this piece together.  I measured and squared up;  I guess I am not yet totally Freddified, but I am able to work just a little bit outside my comfort zone.  This muscle must be exercised a bit more.

Here’s the finished product:

I remain inspired by this class and am already planning my next quilt in this style.  Freddy had many pieces that were horizontally structured, and many in the class tried this method (Hi, Carolyn).  I think I will see how I like this layout next time.

AND, because I guilt-tripped myself for starting a new project when I had so many others waiting to be completed, I have spent this week moving three different projects closer to completion, and that this feels really good.  So there will be more new pieces posted here soon.

A mistake (?) turned out okay

I have written before about projects that I thought were good ideas at the time but, in the execution, turned out not to be so successful.  This is one of those projects.  I wanted to make another quilt using the 2″ squares on the diagonal, but I wanted to do something different.  In the sewing, I took a square section of patches out of the quilt, rotated the unit 45 degrees, and resewed it into the space.  I thought this was incredibly daring, and I was mistaken.  I thought the change would be dramatic, and it is so undramatic that it is even difficult to distinguish what was moved.  See what you think.

Red, White, Black Squares, 2012
36.5″ x 42.5″
Photography by Paul Hennessey

Even though the effect was not so dramatic, I love this quilt.  I think the graphic Sassaman print, made up of black sunbursts and spirals on white, saves this quilt.

Need to encourage myself to make more mistakes??????


Works-in-Progress, Sept/2012

21 09 2012

? ? ? ? ? ?

How do we ever choose what to work on at any given time?  I came up with this question after returning from a relaxing week away from home (You were fabulous, Ashland OR and the OSF!).  I specifically took along a hand sewing project that I wanted to finish, and also packed a pile of fabrics for a project that I was considering for a new work, just in case I finished the first task.

You guessed it:  I completed about half of the original task, and then went nuts on  the pile of fabrics, and made these,  which currently have no planned home:

Just can’t stop making them for now.  I think I’m putting in my training time on the hand applique techniques, which I’m finding very satisfying, after doing so much patchwork for the last 40 years.

Since I could not stop sewing these things, I think this is the feeling that I am looking for when I do what I do—being “in the zone”, losing track of time, I’ll make just one more, this quilt “made itself”, I was just playing, etc.  I’ve been in all these states, and I think this is where I do the best work.

Another WIP

I’m making another quilt from 2″ squares, just like Fun Fours, as described in the previous Four Patches blog post.  The quilt top was done, but this quilt sat for quite a while because I wanted to find a new quilting pattern.  When I make a quilt I have made before I want to do  something new, something individual.  This time I wanted a different quilting.

I designed a free motion quilting pattern simple enough for me to be able to execute.  I think it will work out well.  Of course I chose to to these new machine quilting techniques on a quilt that is HUGE, so it will be a while in the making.

No longer a WIP

I finally figured out how to quilt this recent squares exercise about which I wrote in August, and had tons of fun doing it.  Really like how bright and cheery it came out.

All the circles seemed to coordinate well with all the dots.  I used a commercial template to start the centers of the large motifs, and then just eyeballed the rest of the spiral.  Also got a chance to use up some wonderful Sulky rayon 30-wt. threads from a previous project—orange, yellow and fuchsia.

Free form circles in the border–fast becoming one of my favorite border patterns, since it is soooooo fun to do.

Still Loving Those Squares—16-Patches

17 08 2012

And, if you want to try to get rid of these 2-inch squares a little faster and are bored with the four patches, try sewing them in 16-patches.

Simple 16-patches with no sashing create great masses of semi-organized fabric chaos.

Spring Bouquet, 2003
59″ x 66.5″

A Children’s Quilt Project Donation Quilt, 2009
40″ x 48″

Add some interest in the middle, and a medallion effect is created.

Christmas 16- Patches, 2009
For son Patrick Hennessey
Photography by Sibila Savage

And . . . TA DA . .

The Simple Pleasures Series

My all-time favorite 16-patch construction is the pattern I call Simple Pleasures.  I have made this quilt more than 10 times, including two huge Christmas quilts, and have taught others, individually and in classes, to make it, too.

The pattern originated from an antique quilt owned by friend Mabry Benson, and we thought this would make a good traditional quilt to raffle at one of our guild’s (East Bay Heritage Quilters) Voices in Cloth quilt shows.  I sewed the top, using fabrics that mimicked the turn-of-the-century fabrics in the antique quilt (much harder to do back in 1997 than it is today).   [Disclaimer:  these are not 2″ squares, but 1.5″ finished.]

Simple Pleasures I, 1997
76″ x 82″
Photography by Belda Photography

The detail photo of this quilt shows the wonderful hand quilting of volunteer members of our guild.  The quilt and a large quilting frame were moved from one house to the next, and quilters would work together on the quilting.  Ah, the good old days . . . .

Simple Pleasures I, detail, 1997
Photography by Belda Photography

Using the leftover fabrics from this raffle quilt, I made two more just like this one and a lap quilt as well.  Then I started playing with wildly different fabrics.

Here are a couple of my variations on this wonderful pattern.  The first uses all vintage feed sack and quilting fabrics, as well as vintage solids.

Simple Pleasures V, 2003
60″ x 71.5″
Photography by Sibila Savage

For this one I wanted to see the how this pattern would look without variation in the fabrics of the pinwheels.

Simple Pleasures VIII, 2009
60″ x 75″
Photography by Sibila Savage

The secret to this quilt is its simplicity.  It looks as though this quilt is very complicated, but, in actuality, it is made up of two simple blocks, a 16-patch and a pinwheel.  Stare at the above quilt (or look closely at the detail photo of Simple Pleasures I above) and see the blocks separate from each other.  Great optical patterns dance all over these quilts when color placement enhances the individual blocks.

Four Patches—–More 2-inch squares

13 08 2012

Now let’s look at the wonderful world of four-patches. This was founding-mother-quilter Mary Ellen Hopkins first suggestion when I caught this square patch bug:   when  you have piles and piles or, in my case, boxes and boxes of these 2-inch squares, start sewing them together and see what happens after you have piles and piles of four-patches.

The first of this series of quilts was made when I was working toward meeting my personal commitment to make graduation quilts for all six girls in my then high school daughter’s community service group (see other,  previous posts).  I made Fun Fours, intending it for one of the girls, and quickly realized that I could not give it away just yet, since it sang to me so much (sorry, graduates;  this one’s for me).

Fun Fours, 2004
72″ x 84″
Photography by Sibila Savage

So, of course, I turned right around and made two more quilts, from other stacks/boxes of squares.  Lavender Garden II was created for Christina Oraftik and  Hydrangeas was perfect for group leader Denise Grote.

Lavender Garden II, 2004
65″ x 80″
Photography by Sibila Savage

Hydrangeas, 2006
57″ x 72″
Photography by Sibila Savage

All three quilts are the exact same pattern, and all look quite different.  The streak o’ lightning sashing is so much fun and creates lots of opportunities to use up other small pieces that are leftover from other projects.  I don’t remember buying much fabric for these quilts, except perhaps for the borders and backs.

Also, I do not have detail photos of these quilts, but if you click on them, you can see the detail, sometimes a good thing, sometimes not.  Oh, well . . .

Hooked on Squares

10 08 2012

Remember all those drawers of fabrics from the last post a thousand years ago?? Time to show the vast array of quilts that have come out of that stash over the years.

THE FIRST is a very recent one, which started out to be a repeat of the Lithgow quilt.  Here it is in the preliminary stages on the wall in my studio.

“Lithgow II” in progress

I decided I wanted to mix things up, and have a rectangular quilt, so here is the finished top.

Finished top

I love to make these quilts that have thousands of colors and prints, and then I find that I have created a mess for myself when figuring out which color quilting thread to use.  On busy quilts like this, multi thread makes things look even more chaotic.  Don’t know how this one will turn out yet.

THE SECOND is also relatively recent, and is a pattern that I use over and over when I just want to sew without a lot of complicated planning.  It is also the design I choose when I fall in love with a fabric that I know will make a wonderful border, and the quilt is built from the outside in.

Confetti Squares, 2011
66″ x 73″
Photography by Sibilia Savage

Same design, now for Christmas.

Christmas Medley I, 2009
63″ x 72″

And a huge one–so simple and so much fun.

Dots Diagonal II, 2009
75″ x 89″
Photography by Sibila Savage

Dots Diagonal II (detail), 2009
Photography by Sibila Savage

Me and John Lithgow

27 06 2011

John Lithgow with his quilt, 2011

I proclaim myself

Quiltmaker to the stars

Or, perhaps more accurately, to the star . . .

I was very pleased to get the opportunity to gift one of my quilts to one of my favorite actors, so I took it.  My wonderful sister-in-law Wendy worked with John Lithgow on the upcoming sci-fi-action drama The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and she did me the favor of delivering one of my creations to this marvelous actor.  I thought this was only a fair trade, since Mr. Lithgow has given me so many of his creations, including my two favorites, Dr. Dick Solomon and Arthur Mitchell, the Trinity Killer.  Yes, I’m a huge fan.

I chose this quilt for John because of its intricate pattern and its nature colors.  He appears to be pleased by the choice.  This quilt is one in a series of what seems like thousands of quilts.

Trip Around the World, 2008

(Unfortunate photography by Susan Dague)

There is a history for this quilt, of course:

Way back in 1998, trail-blazing quilter extraordinaire Mary Ellen Hopkins lectured at my guild (EBHQ), and, just as an aside, said the following magic words:  “Clean up your fabric stash—cut all your small scraps into 2 ½ inch squares and give yourself permission to throw away anything smaller.”  I started doing this with my small scraps, and I have never stopped.   Eventually I ended up with fabric drawers  like these:

Drawer One

Drawer Two

And I use these squares in exactly the way that Mary Ellen had suggested.  Whenever I feel like I just want to sew, I pull out a pile of these squares and make them into four-patches.  Sometimes I just make a small quilt out of colors that I love or try to find an interesting pattern for the scraps I happen to have on hand (the technique used for the Lithgow Quilt).

In upcoming posts I will display some more of these quilt, a few or a lot . . . I’ve not yet decided.  But there is a warning:  If you try this technique for dealing with your fabric, you may become as addicted as I am.  No problem.  The world is full of people who deserve quilts.

Trip Around the World, Detail

Christina’s Four Square

1 04 2011

Four Square, 2005                          Photography by Sibila Savage

Using a Judy Hooworth quilt as inspiration (Razzle Dazzle Quilts is wonderful reading for me!!), I took on the challenge of combining these dull solids with bright prints.  For me, this was truly a challenge.  Creating the blocks took me outside my usual comfort zone, and finding sashing and posts for the blocks proved to be the most challenging of all.  I auditioned so many different fabrics for this quilt that I ended up making two small quilts from all the unused leftovers for the main quilt.

Later, at a quilt show I was fortunate enough to present, Christina and her parents admired many of my quilts.  I casually asked Christina if there were any quilts that were her favorites.  When she chose this quilt, she did not know that she was actually choosing the quilt that she would receive as a gift two years later.  I hope it still appeals to her as much as it does to me.

The first was made from the leftover solid blocks.

Amish Squares, 2004              38.5″ x 45″ 

And the second was the wide variety of fabrics that did not make the fit as posts for the sashing.   I had originally thought that the posts for Four Square needed to be bright, but the final posts were a dull print, thereby allowing all the blocks to shine by themselves.  The leftovers made this quilt.


Hanging onto the scraps from finished projects has often been a problem for me.  I work with them until I can no longer stand to look at them.  Some artists might see  this as “working in a series”;  for me, it’s just puzzle-solving.