Monday, June 24, 2013

Powerless Sewing...

What do these sewing machines have in common? Not only are they vintage machines, they are all hand crank models. The quilter provides the power to operate them. Our guild recently enjoyed a presentation by Linda Wade of Treadles and Treasures, Spring Hill, FL. Linda and her husband brought these heavy, all-metal machines, along with a treadle machine and many of her quilts made exclusively on her treadles. Linda shared with us a number of reasons she prefers to sew on a treadle, including being able to sew during a power outage. Quite a few members had memories or experience with treadle machines. Do you?

There were many impressive bits of information about the old machines, but we were most impressed with what Linda has done with them. She pieces and machine quilts full size quilts on her treadles (she has 12 working ones). And when I say she machine quilts, I mean free-motion! Really!

You can see the background stippling she accomplished in this photo. Because the feed dogs cannot be dropped, Linda sets the stitch length to zero and uses a hopping foot to free-motion. She zips right along and gets good results. She even machine embroidered the floral design in this block on her treadle! Linda, her husband Gene, and her father all work together to collect and restore these lovely old machines. She can even create a computer-generated decal transfer to replicate the beautiful designs that have worn off an old machine.

And here's a card we gave Linda- I thought the image suited her. We all enjoyed her lively and interesting presentation. Linda's enthusiasm for these wonderful vintage machines was infectious.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Long May They Wave...

This joyful prayer flag emerged from the piles of scraps in my last post. It's the second of three I sent to a quilting friend for her birthday. They've arrived in Pennsylvania, and may even be waving over her garden and yard right now. It is so satisfying to combine the fibers and embellishments that have been just languishing in the sewing room longing for a home. There are handmade fabric beads in this one, along with hand-dyed fabric, and hand embroidery. A little lace and some yarn to accent the charming bird stenciled on linen (part of a prize package I won), and this flag is ready to fly. There are several more just awaiting assembly. They're kind of like potato chips!

I read about rust-dyed fabrics and just had to try it for myself. So one of the muslin-turned-rust pieces became the background for this flag. Then I bought a copy of Dianne Hire's book "Vivacious Curvy Quilts", and I just had to try it for myself. The curvy, improvisational leaf was the result of that. My sewing room is loaded with little experiments and I'm happy to find a use for them. There are many days when I like to play with fabric and just sew something... anything. That's when "just have to try it" things like rust dyeing and curvy leaves happen. And I'm a happy stitcher!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Prayer Flags.. a repository for bits and pieces!

A quilting friend's recent move to a new home and upcoming birthday gave me the perfect occasion to create some prayer flags for her gardens. Somehow, once I decide to make one of these, the flags fairly invent themselves. And the most fun part of making them is that I need to paw through all those wonderful bits and pieces that have found their way into the sewing room over the years. At last- a use for them. There certainly are enough, and many of them have been here for quite some time with no real intended purpose. The hand-printed fabric piece was a leftover piece from Michigan fiber artist, the ball fringe (who ever thought there would be a use for that??) came from an estate lot of trims given to our sewing group, and the lace was just one of many pieces in the stash. And they all landed together in this little house flag. 

And while I was pulling things together for that flag, I came across yet more bits and pieces that looked at-home together. Those I set aside for another flag. The handsome bird stenciled on linen was part of a prize package I won in a blog drawing. Of course he belongs in a garden as part of sunny yellows, grassy greens, and flowers. 

And then there's this grouping of items. Small bits I just couldn't part with will go together in a more "earthy" combo. The background fabric is some rust-dyed muslin with which I experimented. The deterioration has already begun, so into the garden they will go where they can wave and fly free until they disintegrate and are no more.

Then there's this lively grouping chock full of hand-prints. The spool images were part of another blog prize drawing I won for early enrollment in a Kelli Perkins online class. I can hardly wait to see what these become! These are a bit like card making- while working on one, another project is percolating in my mind. I must stop at some point, but haven't reached that point just yet!

Monday, June 10, 2013

All Quiet on the Quilting Front...

I've been working "behind the scenes" so to speak. Most of the sewing I've done lately is preparation of backings for several quilts. Not too exciting, but where would our quilts be without them? I did, however, have the chance to attend the Florida Quilt Study Group meeting recently. It is always a pleasure to spend time in the company of old quilts and those who care about them. Just look at this lovely example. What is more basic than a Nine-Patch two-color quilt? Simple, but oh so pleasing. Just an up-close look at the indigo and shirting fabrics is fascinating.

Another two-color quilt, Winding Ways, is simple yet graphic. It has such charm and those secondary curved patterns keep your eye moving. We tried to figure out how this one was pieced. It looks as if that center hour-glass shape was a single piece joined on each side by a 5-piece curved unit. There is a little more space at the center of the block than I've seen in the pattern before.

Wouldn't you have loved to meet the quilter who pieced this Jacob's Ladder block? The use of color is and pattern is so bold. It looks downright modern. What a treat to see these examples of vintage quilts.

This is one of those quilt backs I mentioned. They are a great place to make use of some stray blocks and pieces that don't have a home. This large circle is a case in point. After attending one of the Ricky Tims Quilt Seminars, I just had to try his method of piecing a circle. It worked, but I didn't really have a place for the resulting block... until now, that is.

And more curved piecing is at play in this Drunkard's Path quilt made using batiks. The top part of the photo shows the quilt top, and the bottom is the backing, again using some stray blocks. I like to press open the seams on backing but sometimes they wobble a bit and get pressed to one side or the other. So I thought through the steps in pressing open that might guarantee a better result. You may already know this, but I'll share my approach just in case you find it useful: 1) Press the seam as it is sewn, 2) then quickly turn the piece wrong side up on your ironing board while it still retains some heat from the iron, 3) run your finger along the seamline to finger press it, open the seam slightly and "training" it to lie flat, 4) direct the tip of the iron along the seamline to press it open while at the same time lifting the fabric ahead of the iron at a slight (45 degrees or less) angle. This seemed to do the trick and none of the seams went wrong. Of course the iron heat dissipates for the very long seams, but still the method helped me. So the backs are pieced and the quilts are off to the longarmer for quilting. Now on to preparing the binding so I'll be ready when they are!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Patchwork Pachyderm...

Here is the elephant that was "hiding" in the paper scraps shown in the previous post. Isn't he handsome? I need to find a frame for him yet, but he'll hang on the wall to keep company with small quilts in the sewing room. After reading the articles in Somerset Sew on piecing with paper, and armed with a 50% off coupon at JoAnn's, I wandered through the scrapbooking section. That's when I spotted the pattern for this fellow and was immediately smitten.

The pattern is from a line of Michaela Laurie designs published by McCall's. The tag line on her web site Paper Quilt Creations says "timeless patterns for combining a love of paper and fabric with all the joys of sewing." That sums it up quite nicely I think! She also has a blog and instructional videos on You Tube. This project, like a quilt, produced yet ever smaller pieces of paper. And again I face the decision of whether to keep them or share them. From time to time I tell myself "You simply can't keep everything." And then I live by that for awhile. But things have a way of accumulating, don't they? Such fun.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Another Kind of Paper Piecing...

It's not enough that I have a need to cut up and sew together fabric pieces. No. The urge also extends to paper. That, of course, means another whole set of supplies, bits, and pieces. This greeting card was one result of my most recent bout of paper sewing.

The draw to do some sewing on paper began in part with articles like these. Both are from Sew Somerset- "The Art of Paper Quilting" from the 2007 Volume 1, Issue 1; and "Scrappy Paper Quilting" by Jane Eileen in the Winder 2011 Volume 4, Issue 2. They provide the visual feast and inspiration I need. Such beautiful work. 

So I cut up little squares of scrapbook papers, grabbed a glue stick, and jumped right in. This is the start of another paper project I'll show in the next post. There's an elephant in there! Just wait, you'll see.

So while all the papers glue sticks, and cutting tools were within reach anyway, I also made this vintage-feel birthday card for a friend. Back in the day when I dabbled in all sorts of crafts, I finally told myself to pick one... and I chose quilting. However, I continued to collect trims, and fancy papers until I branched out into mixed media projects a couple of years ago. It feels good to finally have a home for all those collected bits. But the explosion of more supplies to fit in the sewing room is a management challenge. I can't tell if I'm make headway on using things up, but I'm having fun trying!