Fun with Fabric

It was kind of exciting to wake up this morning and know I was going to be working with fabric at my class today. It's been quite a challenge to get this far. Don't you suppose I was feeling pretty smug setting up the little iron caddy in my motel room so that I could iron and sew strips this morning?

It worked great! Pfelicity was set up across the room on the desk, and I got to work sewing three strip sets of each of two fabrics.

Yesterday, Ann  was explaining to me how to do the slats in my Adirondack chairs, and I wasn't quite getting it. Last night, I suddenly had an epiphany about how this could work. The fabric in the center serves as the gap between the chair slats, and I'll show you how it went together below.

Here's how it will look for the red chair.

If you paid attention to the comments from yesterday's post, then you might have read my friend Kate's assessment that this technique is a little like making your own paper-piecing pattern. And I think she really hit the nail on the head. It isn't paper-pieced, but that's the reference point I was needing when I was struggling to understand how to label my pieces for sewing order. When in doubt, I can just ask myself how one would paper piece it, and then the answer will reveal itself.

So here's how my red chair started out this morning. I was working from right to left.

None of the pieces are sewn together yet, and they won't be until after I get the project home. For now, we're checking to see if our bright and bold fabrics will work together. When I'd taken it this far, Ann encouraged me to try out the fabrics for the green chair.

And my classmates and I agreed that all of this was working so far. I used a polka dot for the arm of the red chair, echoing the polka dots in the back of the green chair. For the green chair, I used a stripe, echoing the stripes of the red chair. There are also some different fabrics that serve as the edges of the arms, and I've used it for the legs of the red chair. It's a little hard to see in the image below, but I'm happy with all the fabrics I've selected. 

In order to work the design this way, sometimes little tiny pieces need to be cut off to be picked up later, and those are pinned inside a zip-lock bag behind the yellow sand fabric. I haven't selected my sand fabrics yet, but we're hanging those there to get some idea how they might work. Also, if you notice at the top left of the green chair, I've sewn a little piece of the rock fabric to the top of the left-most slat. In my mind, that's a better way to deal with those little pieces, but Ann wants us to wait and sew them on later. For now, I'm doing it her way. In my own sewing room, I think sewing the pieces together as I need to makes a lot more sense. We'll see...

So I thought you might enjoy seeing what my classmates are working on. This woman is doing a begonia (I think). The original image with vellum pattern is to the right of her quilt. 

Here's the grandfather and grandchild. I love the way she's putting the shirts together.

This woman is sharing a table with me, and she's doing one of her dog.

This design is by one of the women from Alaska. Hers is of starfish in a tide pool.

This is another of the women from Alaska. She's doing a sort of stylized cat. It's a statue she saw in a public park in Seattle.

Finally, this is another of Ann's quilts. She explained that this was made from an image of her husband when he was three years old. In Ruth McDowell style, the details have been left off the face. 

This one made me excited to try a picture of my brother that was taken when he was five. He was wearing overalls and holding a snake out in front of him. It's one of my favorite images of my brother, and since he passed away in 2004, it would be a nice memento of him. I would post the picture here, but I don't have it on my laptop. I'll try to remember to show you when I get home. That alone would make it worth it for me to take the class a second time.

When I left today, I took a few pictures of the quilt shop. This is the Fiddlesticks Quilt Shop in Vancouver, Washington. Cheran, the owner, has been very hospitable to our group, as she was when I signed up for the class. She remembered to take down my Oregon driver's license information since, as an Oregon resident, I'm exempt from paying sales tax in Washington. There are two long arm machines located in the front of the store, and those have been going full time quilting quilts for other customers.

When you walk in the front door of the shop, this is what you see when you look to the right. I've drawn an arrow indicating where the double doors for the classroom are. You can see one of my classmates standing back there.

Look to the left, and this is what you see. Isn't that a pretty quilt?

It's a small space, but laid out well so that she has a good amount of fabric with good variety and plenty of room to stand back and admire. In the image below, you can see one of Ann's chicken quilts hanging on the wall. The chickens are available as a pattern, and she also teaches a two-day class to make them.

In this section of the store, she has a good supply of civil war prints to go along with the other brighter fabrics.

This is the back room of the store. I taped my design to the far window when I was transferring it to freezer paper. On the opposite side is a hallway that leads to the restroom and to the classroom, and there are also some sale fabrics back there. 

So now it's day's end. I ate a container of fruit that I picked up at the grocery store the other day. It staved off hunger, but it won't keep me from getting hungry later in the evening. There's still plenty of daylight left, and so I'm going to get out for a walk. I'm hoping to get my 10k steps today, something I've missed the last two days...too much sitting around, even when I try getting out more.

There's one more day of class tomorrow. We won't start until the shop opens at 11:00 a.m., and I'll probably leave early in the afternoon to head for home. I'll fill you in on the last day either tomorrow or the next day.


Catching On and Catching Up

Thanks to all of you who wrote such supportive and kind comments after yesterday's debacle. It was a much better day today. The class gets off to a good start by beginning at the very civilized hour of 10:30 a.m., although Ann was there at 10:00 when the shop opened to answer any questions. I was there at 10:00 as well. It gave me time to eat a good breakfast and get out for a walk. There is a grocery store just down the street, and I walked past it, and then back again, stopping in to pick up a few healthy snacks. (There is a refrigerator in my room, and so I'm taking advantage of it.) It was a good way to start the day and went a long way toward clearing my head and restoring my patience.

When I arrived a the quilt shop this morning, my project was right where I left it...about halfway through this stage of labeling all the pieces of my pattern.

This was the hardest part of the process. We first needed to decide logical sections, which were lettered A, B, C, etc. and then within those sections, we numbered in order of sewing. Here was where we discovered problems in our design, missing lines, lines that were not sewable and made changes where necessary. This was the section I struggled with yesterday, and mainly, I was just too tired to think any more. It's a little like working a jigsaw puzzle and a crossword puzzle at the same time. Also, one has to work out how much detail is necessary. At times, I thought I'd put in too many lines, but when I compared it to the picture again, I realized that it demarcated some detail that was essential. 

At some point as I was labeling the chair on the right, it all fell into place, and I wondered why I'd struggled so. I can't even tell you what the point of enlightenment was...it just was. Some things don't need an explanation. Can I get a Hallelujah! When it was all labeled, it look like this:

So at this point, I took my tracing (this was done on vellum) to the FedEx shop (very nice folks, by the way) and asked them to make two regular sized copies of it, and then to blow it up 300%. Mine ended up something like 33 x 42 inches when it was blown up. Then I headed back to the class with my copies. My first job was to color code one of the regular sized copies. There are only four colors in my design: the two chairs, the sand they're sitting in, and some rocks in the background.

Next, we created a freezer paper sheet large enough to cover the entire blow-up. This was accomplished by butting the edges of two sheets together (freezer paper generally comes on a roll 18 inches wide). Then we used cloth tape to first tape them together in just a few places, and then using longer strips of cloth tape to tape the entire seam. 

The cloth tape is important because it is transparent when it's taped over the lines and it will stand up to ironing. Paper tape and plastic tape will melt. We're using the same cloth tape you find in the first-aid section of your grocery store or pharmacy.

The next step was to tape our blown-up pattern to a window (a light box would be great, but our patterns were too large) and then tape our freezer paper sheet over the top...shiny side was up here. Then we traced all the lines from the pattern, but not the labels. It's important to use a micro-fine sharpie here. It's the only ink that will (a) write on the freezer paper, and (b) not smear. You might remember that we learned a similar process when I took Lisa Crnich's class last year to make the Four Fabric Forest. (I've linked to it back there so you can read that post if you're interested in this process.) 

In this next image, I've drawn in all the lines on the shiny side.

Next, I flipped everything over. The blow-up was flipped over, and the freezer paper was flipped over, and here, I started labeling the pieces. These are freezer paper templates and will all be cut apart eventually. As templates, they need to be mirror images of the original since the freezer paper is ironed to the wrong side of the fabric, as in fusible applique. This is a pain-staking process, but very important for the overall success of the project. Here, I discovered places where I'd misnumbered, or missed lines, and I'll discover more as I move along. In this case, surprisingly, I'd only missed two short lines.

After that, we made tick-marks and these will aid in matching up the template pieces once they've been cut apart. This was done in colored pencil, and the goal was to use a different color on all sides of each piece. We could repeat the colors...just not on the same piece.

When I'd done the whole thing, it looked like this. I'll say here that my classmates were all choosing fabrics while I was doing this and exclaiming things like "Too cool!" and "Awesome!" It was kind of a bummer listening to them, but I'm going to love my design, and so I was just patient with myself, waiting for my turn. By the end of the day, it was worth it.

Next, I took a highlighter and went all around the outside edge (but within the lines) of the pattern. Think of this as the straight size of a jigsaw puzzle piece. You know those pieces are at the edge of the puzzle.

Next, I used the pink highlighter to mark off the largest of the sections...in general the ones where the lines went from edge to edge. Finally, I used orange highlighter to mark off the various lettered sections.

And then I was ready for the fun to begin. We pinned my blown up pattern to a foam design wall, and then I cut my pattern part at the four large sections colored in pink. When those sections were cut, I pinned them over the blown-up pattern.

Ta Da!

In general, if one's design includes an animal, then the fabrics start with the eyes. My two chairs are the main subjects in my design, and so that's where I'll start. These are the fabrics I've chosen for the backs and the seats of the chair. Cool, huh? Suddenly all this pain is starting to fade away...like childbirth once you get a first look at that beautiful newborn babe.

Before I return tomorrow, I'll sew some strips together. I won't try to explain my plan for these, but I'll show you once I have my strips sewn together.  And lest you gasp about cutting all those little pieces apart, we start with just one piece at a time. Here is my classmate's pattern of the grandfather and the grandchild that I talked about in yesterday's post. She's added the two heads of hair, and she's getting a start on the shirt.

The fabrics aren't necessarily cut right away, but in this way, they can be auditioned before any sewing is done. Mine will be done a little differently, but again, I'll say more about that once I've sewn my strips together.

In closing, here are a couple more of Ann's quilts brought in today. This is another good example of the "gesture" she mentioned yesterday. Notice how the fabrics all lead the eye to the focal point of the duck.

Also, this zebra, which is available as a pattern. Notice that only one of the zebra fabrics is an actual zebra print. The rest are all stripes of various kinds. The fun fabrics are what I really love about this technique.

Okay, so Mike is on his way up for our First Day of the Last Year of his career celebration. I'm going to rest up a little before he gets here. These long days make my neck and my brain tired.


Brains of Jello

Oh boy...what a day! I'm here at the Fiddlesticks Quilt Shop in Vancouver, Washington, attending the "Designing from Nature" class taught by Ann Shaw.

Let me tell you, my blogging friends, this is hard. I find myself behind the rest of the class at this point...which isn't the end of the world because I think I already having a good understanding of what comes after today. It will be the same principals I learned for the Four Fabric Forest quilts. For now, I'm struggling to create my pattern. That isn't a complaint, or even a worry. It just is what it is.

So I'm going to try to reconstruct what we've been doing so far today. Ann Shaw is a good teacher. The other students in the class all seem to have more experience with the technique than I have. Several of them have already taken the class at least once. There is a group of three from Alaska who seem to have done some work with her prior to coming to Washington...as if they might have spoken by telephone in preparation and then made one of her patterns.

She spent some time going over one photograph from each of us. We all showed up with quite a few images, and we all had trouble deciding. Since I was seated closest, she worked with one of my images first. She asked me which one I wanted to do, and then she picked out the image of the Adirondack chairs on the beach. (I couldn't tell if this was the one I selected. It all happened pretty fast.)

Whether I wanted to do this image or not, it's still a good one to illustrate what we learned today (and I suspect that's how it ended up as Exhibit A). We talked a lot today about "gesture" in photography. I've read a lot of photography books and learned a lot over the years, but this was my first introduction to this term. It has to do with the movement or connection...even the mood of a photograph. What are the lines and shapes?

She encouraged me to crop the photograph to just the two chairs on the right since they were the most visually interesting, and then she drew a line delineating the portion I'd be working with.

As she discussed "gesture" she asked us to consider what was happening in the photo...what story is it telling? And at that, I piped up saying it was taken when we went to the beach for our 40th wedding anniversary last year. As a story, it made sense to crop it to two chairs representing the two of us. Also, the chairs are facing toward the ocean. Are they looking to the past? To the future? At time? In other words, the chairs represent two people. Just as I'm writing this I'm thinking about how they are sitting on sand, which brings to mind the "sands of time"...and I could go on getting all sappy about this, but I think you get the idea.

This is a technique where lines are drawn and piecing is done in strips and little pieces. She talked about the difference between Ruth McDowell's technique and applique. This image could be done in applique, but it's a completely different technique, involving fusing, layering, and glue. In this case, it will all be pieced, and so our objective is to decide where to draw the lines. One must start with one line. While it might make sense to draw a line dividing the chairs, that also separates them. Ann encouraged us to draw a line that connects the subjects of the image with the "gesture" or the "story". In this case, she chose a line common to both chairs, which will bring them together in the quilt. I hope I'm explaining this in a way that makes sense. 

When the line was drawn, it looked like this. You can see how it connects the top of the red chair with the arm of the green chair (okay...turquoise, but "green" is easier to type).

And then she started dividing the image into more lines. The goal is to avoid "Y" seams, and to avoid having everything come to a star in the center. There is more, and I'll use the images of Ann's own quilts to say more about this below.

She did some work on this image of a dog brought by one of my classmates. In this case, the "gesture" is the way the dog is gazing off into the distance, looking at something, and so the first lines capitalize on that.

Some other ideas she gave us were these: This is her quilt of a heron (or something). She talked about the way the heron overlaps the border, which gives the bird a more commanding presence in the quilt.

 She used this quilt of a sunflower to illustrate several points. For one thing, in the original image, the seed pod in the center of the flower is a solid curved line. She likes to break up the line. The eye will still see it as a solid, but it makes it possible to piece in strips by breaking up the lines slightly, rather than having to work with curved seams. You'll see that I'll attempt to do this with the slats in my chair backs.

For this dog, she drew her first line down the center of the dog's head and then worked in some approximate symmetry from there. By doing so, the seam in the middle tends to disappear.

Here's another image brought by a classmate. I'm not sure how well this is showing up, but you can see that it is a grandfather holding his grandchild on his lap. The line is drawn to connect his shoulder with the child. The student had taken the class before and tried to draw a pattern before the class started. When she did, she drew her line vertically between the grandfather and the child...and that separated the two. It's a better design when the line is drawn horizontally to bring out the connection.

The quilt below was made by one of my classmates who has taken the class before. We were simply discussing fabrics here, but what a fun quilt! This is her car...a vintage Bel Aire or something like that.

So, if I'm confusing you with all of this, don't feel badly. I'm confused too. We broke for lunch here. When we came back, I left the class with another of my classmates to have our cropped images blown up so that we could work with them to make a pattern. This took approximately one hour, and it's where I started falling behind. 

When I got back, I taped my image to the table, then taped tracing paper over the top and then drew the outside border of my design.

Then, I started drawing in lines. I liked the first ones she had drawn connecting the two chairs, and then I went from there.

It was hard to know how much detail to include.

And it got even more complicated as I went along. By the time I was finished, I had even more lines than what you see in the image below.

Once the lines were drawn in, the next challenge was to make sure everything was able to be sewn together, that there were no "Y" seams, no crossed lines, etc. And then we were to create a "recipe" by delineating certain sections of the pattern as A, B, C, etc., Within the sections we were to number the pieces in the order that they could be sewn together. I'm sorry I can't say this with any more specificity, but in this case, you really have to be there in the class to follow.

At this point, the image itself is less important than the lines. To make it easier to see them, we slid a piece of paper under the tracing paper to make it easier to see. By this time, I was really tired and having a hard time thinking clearly. Also, the graphite was smearing and making a big mess. And...I was just getting frustrated. For one thing, in the position where I was seated, I'd spent the entire day looking at her back, and having her body between me and the thing she was telling us. It meant I was constantly jumping up and down so that I could see what she was telling the rest of the class. And, because I was behind, I felt as if I was having to be fairly aggressive to get her attention. She spent a lot of time with others, and seemed to be waiting for me to catch up. Finally, I just said straight out that I was stuck. It would have been easy at this point to move from frustration to tears, but I held myself together. 

I'll say here that I am enjoying the class, and I feel as if I have a grasp on what's going on, but it is more challenging than I'd anticipated. I'm sticking with it, but at the end of the day, my classmates were taking their work back to wherever they came from so that they could finish up...and there was no f*cking way I could do another single thing  today. I told her I wasn't going to be able to finish it tonight, and that I'd have to pick it up there tomorrow. No apologies, that's just how it is.

So before I finish up here I wanted to show you a couple more images from today. Here's one of Ann's chickens. There is another two day class taught here just on the chickens. This is also available as a pattern.

Here's a little eye candy from the fabric shop.

As I'm writing this, I'm at my motel for the next three nights, and I am tired. It probably shows in my attitude. When I checked into the motel, the woman at the front desk told me I had two rooms booked. "No," says I. "I have the confirmation right here," (producing printed copy of the email) "and there is only one room listed. One confirmation. One room."

She proceeded to check me in, giving me an upstairs room when I specifically said that I wanted a room downstairs. Then she said, "Regarding the double-booking, you're going to have to call--" there I cut her off.

"That isn't my problem. I'm not calling anyone, I'm not doing anything about it," I said. In my head I was thinking, and I have just one nerve left, and you're getting on it. That would be a big mistake.

So, long story short...I have one room...downstairs...and there is just one of me. And I'm hungry and tired. Time to head out for some dinner. Tomorrow is another day, and it's going to be a good day.