Fun with Fabric

Today is the last day of my class with Ann Shaw. We start at 11:30 this morning. Probably like most people, I slept in an extra hour...or maybe I slept the same amount of time...I just woke up an hour later than usual. Did you remember to spring ahead? Now that we're into daylight savings time, I figure the Universe wouldn't dare send any more snow our way, right?

So let's back up to yesterday's class. We spent some time in the morning talking about fabric selection. The real fun of this technique is the fabrics. The quilts end up very colorful and whimsical, which is my favorite style. We talked about contrast first. Fabrics that are tone-on-tone can look boring until paired up with a fabric that has more pattern and texture. Also don't be afraid to cut out just small sections of fabrics to take advantage of a pattern. To my mind, it's a little like choosing fabrics for landscape quilting because I might choose a fabric with stripes to representing the siding on a building.

When choosing such bright fabrics for the subject of the quilt, the backgrounds will be less bright (perhaps), but still will contain lots of movement and texture.

You can see below with Curious Duck here that she's used many different patterns to create his feathers, while the background (which happens to be a McKenna Ryan fabric, in this case) is more toned down. For some reason, all the pictures I took yesterday were kind of blown out, and so it's a little hard to make out the movement in the background in the image below.

Here's an image of another Curious Duck quilt that was taken last year.

In the image below, she's suggesting using your fingers and thumbs to make a frame around certain areas of a fabric. This is especially useful with large scale fabrics. The fabric Ann is holding is a large floral, but you can see how sections of the petals could be used to create feathers, or grass, or a wide range of subjects if cut and positioned in a certain way.

With human subjects, like my brother, this method leaves the faces without detail. My brother's face will be created using flesh tone fabrics. The reason for this is that the method of piecing can leave a human face looking like a Halloween mask. On the other hand, animal faces are pieced in detail, beginning with the eyes. Eyes are often taken from flowers on fabric, and she's showing us an example of the kinds of floral fabrics that can be used very effectively as eyes.

We started cutting our freezer paper patterns into pieces yesterday. They're first cut out using paper scissors, and then ironed to the wrong side of the fabric we're using, then trimmed leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance all around. Here are some examples, and you can see that each piece is labeled for its sewing order and also has tick marks for ease of matching it up to its corresponding piece.

Before class, I sorted through the fabrics I'd brought from home, and then wandered through the store pulling bolts of fabric I thought might be useful in my piece. Care to guess how many of these I'm actually using?

The two greens at the bottom were pulled as potential snake skins. The one above those is one I really like a lot, but haven't yet found a place to use in my quilt. It's pretty doubtful it will get used. The one above that will be used for the overalls. The brightly colored one above that was a potential shirt, but we ended up switching it out for something else. The next two green ones are still in the running as backgrounds. The red at the top was another potential shirt. You'll see that I ended up using one like that, but in a different colorway. Finally, the one at the top was pulled to use potentially as shoes, but I already know I won't be using that one either. The little pile at the top are scraps from my stash. I will end up using a few of those.

So let's get back to the eyes, shall we? Here's the calf with just one eye added. His other eye isn't in the picture.

Here it is again a little closer.

Below are the eyes of the dog from a flower print. Amazing, huh?

Here are the beginnings of the cat's face and eyes. That bolt of fabric in the lower left corner has some other flowers that could be used as eyes.

And here's my faceless image. We settled on the flesh fabric and the hair right away. The hair has a lot of little pieces, and so I won't be doing any more detail there until I get home. It's easier to keep track of the pieces in the controlled environment of one's own sewing room...cats aside.

In the image above, we were experimenting with different fabrics for the snake. The two you see here are from my stash. The lower one was my first choice, but Ann liked the one above...I liked it too, until we stood back and looked at it. It kind of has the appearance of woven rope, and so we worried that the snake would be lost and began looking for a stripe. You can see it in the image below. There were many colors of stripes in the fabric I chose, but I ironed my pieces to take advantage of the darkest stripe. It helps the eye to follow the line and see it as a snake.

It's a great fabric with lots more shades of green stripes, and so I purchased enough of that to use for my quilt binding. It will be cute as a binding, and it will help the snake to pop out. Also in that image above, I'd started experimenting with fabrics for the shirt. It wasn't looking right, and so we switched it out for the green plaid you see in the image below. Also, I'm using some fabric from my stash for the contrasting collar and (eventually) the cuffs of the shirt.

In the image below, you can see that I have a sandwich bag pinned to my design wall where I'm keeping the tiniest pieces as I cut them off. I'm not ready to use them in my design, but I don't want them to be lost, and so they're stored there temporarily. As much as possible, we only cut the pieces we are using right away, leaving the sections whole as long as possible, and then pinning them back to the design wall to use when we're ready.

In the image below, I've added more pieces for the shirt.

And I continued on from there...a boy grows in Vancouver. We used a contrasting fabric from my stash for one of the pockets on the bib of the overalls. Eventually, that was switched out for a different fabric that I used for the cuffs of the pants.

In the image above, you can see where I left it for the day. In the image below, I've marked an area that I want to change. The orientation of the stripes in the fabric helps to give the pants the rumpled look from the photograph. (As a child, he's wearing clothes that he can grow into.) My thinking is that bottom wedge should point toward the outside of the leg and that will make a wrinkle in the bottom of the pant leg. As it sits, it seems too uniform to my eye.

Today I'll be building the shoes at the bottom, and then starting to think about background fabrics.

Here are the projects my classmates are working on. This first one is the calf.

In the image below, she's started adding fabrics for the straw below the calf.

Here's the swimmer doing butterfly. It's turning out remarkably well, I think. Ann really wants her to switch out that black swim cap for something more colorful and fun, but the artist is standing firm on the black.

Here's some more of the cat, and she's starting to piece in the leg. I'm curious to see this one at the end of today.

Finally, the dog with three balls in its mouth.

Okay, so we'll be doing more of the same today. I'll tell you more about today's progress after I get home. At the end of class today, my project which is pinned to a foam "design wall" will be loaded into the back of my car. All the pieces will stay right where they're pinned..at least that's the plan. When I get home, I'll start sewing them together. It might take me a day or two to get organized, so I'll get back to the blog shortly.

Before I go, however, I wanted to leave you with this chuckle. It's a quilt that was hanging at the entrance to a quilt show in Tucson (I think). It's a little hard to read there at the bottom. Can you read it?

"They touched the quilts." Let that be a lesson to you. A year at hard labor if you touch the quilts. Too cute. Some people are so clever.

17 comments from clever and witty friends:

Debbie said...

I like the stripe for the snake....although the first looked good as a scaly snake it was not as obvious.
The universe moved here last night....we had a dusting of snow this morning. Weirdest weather I have ever seen.

gpc said...

Pretty amazing stuff. The eyes are mind boggling. And I will remember to keep my hands to myself. :)

Barbara said...

You sent the snow out east to muck up my moving activities! :-)
I was sure that buying a house with a garage and HOA snow removal would mean no snow. But, I don't do the big move until next month so I guess we're still fair game. One more time shoveling out the car parked on the street. Rats!

Your piece looks wonderful. I love the fabric you chose for the snake and the overalls.

Barbara at Stash Overflow

Calicojoan said...

Wow, what a fun class. Love seeing all your photos..."Sew" inspirational!!!!!

Lynette said...

How neat to see the progressions - those flowers are PERFECT for the dog's eyes, aren't they? LOVE your colors on your boy, and yeah, I'm sure it'll look better with a different orientation on that spot of his pants - pull it into the spirit of the rest of the pants. :)

Vroomans' Quilts said...

How cool to see these progress. We are expecting snow all next week.

Kristin in Alaska said...

I LOVE your fabric choices, especially that of the bib overalls. I'm excited to watch your progress.

Quilting Babcia said...

Nor'easter heading our way, expected to drop overy a foot of the white stuff on Tuesday. It is so interesting to see this maze of lines on paper develop into a recognizable image. Looking good!

claudia said...

It is just amazing to see what you were explaining! Your piece is taking on a life! It's wonderful!

quiltzyx said...

Funny reading about your fabric/color choices. In my workshop yesterday & purposely decided to give myself LESS choices to make by using white as my contrast color and not having to figure out which color was light/medium/dark enough. Hah! There were some pics posted on facebook of the class - and that's me, the only one with bright colors and WHITE blocks. :)
The calf looks angry to me for some reason, although it didn't in the photo. Can hardly wait to see how your brother turns out. Really liking the way the snake & overalls are going.

Denise :) said...

Wow, what a fascinating process!! I'm glad you're enjoying the class. It's fun to see different pieces come together ... or to see them in different stages and how the tiniest of pieces of fabric can make such a change in perspective to what you're seeing. Funny little Sunbonnet Sue piece! LOL! :)

Dana Gaffney said...

I'm fascinated with the flower eyes, they look amazing and to me that's the hardest part, now I'm going to be going through all my florals and looking for good eyes. Your brother is looking great!

Wendy Tuma said...

No worries on the snow, I found it -- it's on my deck and lawn, etc. Your work looks really good! I like the stripe on the snake. The other projects were fun to see as well. I wondered how the swimmer was going to work, but I'm amazed at how well it is coming together. Rest up today. Looking forward to seeing more progress soon!

Brown Family said...

The green stripe makes a nice snake. I did not notice the bottom of the overall leg until you pointed it out. It does blend in too well to appear as a wrinkle. I hope you got more final photos of the other projects!

Susan said...

You are doing really well on your quilt. It was fun seeing what the others were doing as well. I would love to take this class if it was anywhere near where I live.

Beth said...

It is amazing--and tender--to watch the photo of your brother becoming a quilt. Thank you for sharing this process with us.

And the insight into using flower fabric for eyes is something I hope I won't forget! That is incredible! I always learn so much when you go to these classes. Bonus: I never have to get out of my pajamas. :)

Kate said...

It's so amazing to see these pieces come to life. Looks like you got a very good start on your project.