Sunday, February 16, 2014


Most of you probably already know by now, but the graphics used for the Sochi olympics are a quilt design.  Here's an article about it.  Sorry, I'm a little to lazy tonight to summarize the article.  

Currently quilting my Kaleidoscope quilt which kicked my butt last Christmas (of 2012, that is).  Things are going much better this time around.  I will post details soon!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pop Mod Delivered.

Duck Duck Berry Duck was gifted on Wednesday.  It's so much fun to present a finished project to someone...especially when it is a surprise!
My sister loved her new quilt top.  She's going to have it quilted in Eugene, OR, where she lives.


Here it is!  My wife and I are doing our best to unfurl it, but the ceilings in my parents' home aren't high enough to open it up completely.  Hopefully my sister will do a photo shoot when it has been quilted.  You can also see some of the left over wrapping paper and boxes from Christmas morning.  With 10 grandkids in town, it was quite a zoo all week, but the "animals" has so much fun together!  Hope your Christmas was merry and bright (and white, as was ours in Minneapolis).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Home For the Finish!

I had a wonderful time in Lynchburg, both singing and sewing!  Although I wasn't sewing with my Singer, I got a lot done on my Christmas gift quilt, which I am calling Duck Duck Berry Duck (explanation will follow).

The two big challenges for me on this piece were the curves and the sheer size of the quilt (it is a king size quilt measuring 103" x 109").  As for the curves, I have to say it was a challenge, but a fun one.  I don't repeat quilt patterns yet, as I have so many to try for the first time, and this variation on the drunkard path was a perfect choice.


A crummy picture, I'll admit, but without my Nikon on the road, the camera phone was pushed to its limits!  The pattern is Pop Mod, and it didn't have a King sized pattern, so I improvised, adding extra squares all the way around the Queen version.  This quilt was so big that I couldn't lay out all the squares on my living room floor as I usually do to finalize configuration.  I had to build it in two halves, then join them at the very end.


...I know, another crummy picture.  This time I was at home and just too lazy to get out the Nikon.  Though you can't get much of a feel for the scale, the "O" block is 17.5" square, so the quilt is almost 9ft across.  This is the top half being put together before joining the blocks.


Last cell phone pic...  This is the bottom half all pieced together.  I am really getting jazzed now!  The bottom half went a bit faster, as it was a few blocks shorter.  When I finally finished it I wanted to crack open a bottle of Champagne or something!


Ah, finally the DSLR...sorry to make you suffer in those last few photos :)  As you can see, I can't even get it all in this wide-angle lens shot, and it creeps up to the couch because my floor can't contain it!  So pleased with the results, though. You might notice that this is just a top, and not a finished quilt.  My only regret is that I just can't quilt this thing on my little home machine.  My sister lives in Oregon, where there are plenty of great long arm quilters, so I'm sure that will be in good hands.  It will be weird to "collaborate" on this quilt, and not bind it myself or see the finished product, but that's just how it's gonna have to go this time around.  The flip side of that is my sis can pick her own quilting pattern!

At the suggestion of a super knowledgeable and helpful friend of a friend quilter (Eastern PA quilter Sharon Rehrig), I learned that I should stabilize the edges of the quilt by stay stitching around the border.



This simple step of stitching very close to the edge (1/8-1/16th of an inch) will help protect it while it gets groped between now and the long arm quilter.  That was a big concern of mine, but no longer :)



One thing that really excited me with this project was that, while I was so worried about getting my curves right, I seemed to have mastered the art of squaring up my corners!  For me, ironing seams closed and very precise pinning does the trick.  Of course, the curves are a work in progress, but those imperfections didn't bother me much.  This is a design I could see myself doing again, so the experience gained from this giant will help next time.


So, my favorite part about the quilt is how personal the design is to the recipient!  When I saw the Pop Mod design, I knew it was for Sheree.  She lives in Eugene, Oregon and is a huge Ducks fan.  School colors are Green and Yellow, and the Pop Mod block looks eerily similar to the Oregon Duck logo.





 Probably would have looked more like it if I had used solids, but I like my version because it's more of a quilt with subtle suggestions of the logo, not a blatant hijacking of copyrighted material :)
So I clearly used Duck colors and logo for inspiration, but decided to add the row of berry flavor to break up the color scheme.  Green and yellow aren't the splashiest of color combos, so the pinks/purples/berries help ad that "pop" of color in this Pop Mod!


I might add a better pic of Duck Duck Berry Duck when we get to Minnesota and I have some help holding it up in a bigger space.  Oh, and the name...  As you may or may not know, Minnesota has an unusual name for a child's game called "Duck Duck Goose".  When we Minnesotans leave the sacred borders of this frozen tundra, we eventually learn that our beloved game of "Duck Duck Grey Duck" only exists in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Everyone else calls it "Duck Duck Goose".  So, the name reflects my sister's roots as a Minnesotan.  In addition, each line of "O"s in the quilt also represents the University of Oregon Ducks, but of course the pattern is broken by that berry chain of "O"s, therefore Duck Duck Berry Duck.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Road Game


On the Road again, this time Lynchburg, VA.  I am singing Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi by Puccini.  It's a fun show written for all of the Met's character singers, so it's a real ensemble opera.

Well, I am working on a Pop Mod quilt (design by Julie from Distant Pickles) for a king size finish for Christmas, but since I am on the road for two weeks, thought I would take some quilting work on the road with me.  I precut all of my 4" x 4" squares so I could trace and cut my drunkard path squares while on the road, then put it together when I got home.  Well, with LOTS of free time on this job, I finished all of my tracing and cutting in a few days, so I tapped the opera patron crowd for a loaner sewing machine, and am now almost done piecing together my 360 drunkard path squares!



Here's my Janome "Jem Gold" surrounded by 100 finished drunkard path squares (un-ironed).  Thanks so much to Polly for lending me this machine for my stay!  So nice to work with a modern machine.  I think it is making me want to trade in my not-so-trusty Singer for something with a more consistent stitch which is quiet and smooth-running.  Enough about the machine, though.

Here's the layout of the Pop Mod block, which will have 22 of these blocks, plus a dozen or so partial blocks.  Since I don't have my cutting tools with me, I won't be finishing the blocks or top 'til I get home.


The background is green, with either purple or yellow focal fabric (this one has the purple focal fabric).  Now that I look at the pic, though, two of the "green" squares look yellow in the picture.  Another reason I recommend taking pictures of your fabrics and blocks before assembly!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Boyish Triangles quilt

After a long hiatus I returned to quilting.  I took the spring and summer off after finishing a quilt top in February, quilting half of it on my machine, then realizing the bobbin tension was loose!  I put the quilt in the closet and held a grudge until a couple of weeks ago, when I began pulling out the stitches.
It will take a few more hours for me to take out all of the stitches and begin to re-quilt, but I definitely needed that time apart from that project.

I also picked up a baby quilt top I had finished right before the quilting debacle and decided to give my Singer yet another chance to redeem itself.
 
 

If I was smart, I would have just slapped on the walking foot and played it safe...But I didn't, of course- I keep returning to the machine for more punishment. In this one isolated case, however, I got lucky!  I stippled and succeeded  This cool baby quilt went to a little boy on his third birthday.  It may be a little small (30" x 30") for a three year old, but I was just a tad gun shy about quilting something bigger.



The recipient already has a fitted sheet with that cute Puppies and Pickups fabric, and I added some bug jar fabric and spider web fabric to give it a decidedly "boy" flavor.


I also experimented for the first time with a flannel backing.  I was/am kinda nervous about this one, as the mixing of unwashed fabric types might cause some wacky shrinkage, but I did a cold water bath pre-wash on the flannel and crossed my fingers.  Hopefully it wont be a train wreck after one wash...actually, Isaac might love that, as he is a huge train fan :)


Hand bound- my last few projects have been machine-finished bindings, but for this one I decided to do it by hand, as I prefer the look, and it's small enough to not feel like a huge additional project.


I like this last shot because I just noticed it looks like the quilt is chillaxin' on the bench, with one arm on the arm rest and the other stretched out on the bench back.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gee's Bend

I spent most of January in Birmingham, AL doing Madama Butterfly with the opera company there.  I had a great time, but my most memorable moments in Alabama were spent on a day trip to Gee's Bend!
A two hour drive from Birmingham, Gee's Bend is an isolated community of under 300 people best known in recent years as a quilting Mecca.



My very fun little Fiat rental car on the Gee's Bend Ferry.  Gee's Bend is nestled in a crook (bend) of the Alabama river, surrounded on 3 sides by water. 



I will let Wikipedia or the description above tell you about Gee's Bend if you are unfamiliar, but in short, a collective of about 50 women make quilts which, after being "discovered" by an "art expert" in 2002, are now part of an exhibition which has shown in the Whitney Museum, the Houston Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian.  The old patchwork quilts, which were throw away pieces considered worthless outside of the warmth they provided, have been hailed by one reviewer as ""some of the most miraculous work of art America has produced."  This proving one of my dad's favorite sayings: "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  These quilts are indeed treasures.  I must add that there has been some debate recently about the motives of the man who "discovered" these quilts, some claiming he was profiteering and taking advantage of these women. 

The quilts are often familiar quilt blocks with a twist, like the one below, which is a take on a Log Cabin (kind of a Disappearing Log Cabin)




These quilt images first appeared on US postage stamps in 2006, and now the giant signs appear in several spots in the town, nearby where the maker of that quilt lived. 

I spent a couple of hours talking with Mary Ann Pettway, who was seated at a quilting frame, quilting in a pattern she called "rolling ocean waves" on a twin bed sized commission for a woman in Tennessee.  This one-room schoolhouse-type building where the quilters work was the meeting place for the guild is complete with a side room which housed a couple hundred quilts folded up or hanging on the walls for sale.  Um, when I say "For Sale", I mean like a car is for sale, not like a set of sheets is for sale.  The bed quilts typically run from $1800-$20,000!  These quilters are FOR REAL!


Here's Mary Ann working on the quilt.   She's a sweet lady, who you can see in some Youtube clips singing gospel music with some of the other Gee's Benders.  They supposedly sing together when they work on their quilts, though they didn't sing while I was there.  One thing I am trying to push myself to do when in situations like this is to be less shy with my camera.  I totally regret not taking a wide shot of the quilting rack, which was basically 2 saw horses holding up two wooden poles, which the two ends of the quilt were wrapped up in like a Torah.  It was a cool contraption, and probably easy to make.  They told me that it wasn't until very recently (like the '70's or '80's) that they had electricity in their houses, and therefore they didn't quilt at night.  They said they would quilt by candle or fire light, but it was just too dark.  They would quilt during the day, with the quilt hanging from the ceiling of the living room with ropes.  When the sun went down, they would pull the quilt up to the ceiling so they could do their evening activities.  Maybe I should rig up something like this in my apartment (cue wife rolling her eyes :) ).




You can see in the above shot that Mary Ann's quilt top has a large black arrow in the center.  When I asked her about it, she said the woman who commissioned this quilt saw an arrow in another one of Mary Ann's quilts and said she wanted an arrow in hers, too.  She gave her several fabrics to use for a guide, and Mary Ann supplemented them with some of her own.  She also commented that she also finds random letters and numbers unintentionally scattered throughout her quilt tops.  In this top she pointed out a patchwork of scraps which looked like a 3 and a 5.


You can also see in the above shot, what Mary Ann refers to as "triangles".  They are basically rectangles with two non-parallel sides, which are sewn together to make a larger rectangle.  Sorry I didn't include little arrows in the picture, but I don't have photoshop with me on the road...  One is on the far left, a black "triangle" together with a brown, black and white "triangle". 


Of course I wanted to show off my quilts to the Gee's Benders, and they were generous in their praise, but when I would show them a picture of a quilt, the first thing they would ask was "What's it called?"  Every one of their quilts has a name, which I thought was kinda cool- like a painting.  I am willing to bet that is a recent development, born from the "rags-to-riches" journey of their quilts from trash piles to art museum walls. 


Interestingly, when I chatted with one of the quilters as I was admiring their quilts in the "store" portion of their building, when I began commenting on the patterns "Oh, here's a disappearing 9 patch" or "I love this!  Is it a courthouse steps variation?" she had no idea.  She said many of the quilters just quilt what they like, and don't really know the pattern names.  That may or may not be true of all the quilters in the guild, but it certainly was for her.




On the way out of town I passed the Freedom Quilting Bee's HQ.  This bee was supposedly begun in the 60's, and proceeds from the sale of quilts produced were used to help fund the Civil Rights movement.




My time with the Gee's Benders was inspiring, and I hope to try out some hand quilting in the future.  I just need a bigger home!


Monday, December 31, 2012

I have been trying to find an hour here and there to work on my kaleidoscope quilt for my friends in Minnesota.  An old college roommate of mine's late mother-in-law was a quilter.  Sadly, she died quite suddenly last year, and they generously offered her stash up to their quilting friends.  I came home with around 40 lbs of fabric (not sure how many yards, but it was A LOT!).  Anyhow, I decided to make a lap quilt for them incorporating some of his MIL's fabrics and some of mine.  Heavy preparation for the opera auditioning season, along with rehearsals for and performances of 2 big productions at the Metropolitan Opera and dealing with some sick baby issues forced me to table much of my quilting for a while.


Things have finally started to calm down here, and I am continuing on my latest quilt. Above is the design inspiration I am using for my kaleidoscope quilt.  I have no idea where I found this picture, so I cannot credit it- I didn't take it, anyhow!  I love how the alternating blocks create larger circles and stars from a distance. 
 I completed all the 8" blocks this afternoon (49), and had planned on a square 7 x 7 layout.  After putting them all down on the bed, I think I may go with a 6 x 8 layout, making the quilt 48" x 64", which I think is a better shape for a lapquilt..  I may add a small boarder...we'll see.  Colors are blues, greens, and browns, with just a few pinks to add an extra dimension.


Here they are all laid out on our bed.  It's similar to my inspiration photo, but a more subdued color scheme.  Photo is a little blurry as I was using my point and shoot camera because dslr was in the baby's room.
Unfortunately, I will be leaving town for work in a week, so probably won't get this one finished before the end of January :(.  Nice to be busy, but have been missing my hobby!  Happy New Year everyone!