22 October 2012

A Halloween Quilt

As you may recall, I decided a couple of weeks ago to use the spooky batik fabrics I made to make a Halloween quilt.  Well, the top is complete!
I've already shown it to it's intended recipient, my boyfriend Jon.  As you can see from his smile here, he likes it!

Halloween is one of Jon's favorite holidays and I'm going to miss the big parties this year because I'll be at Quilt Market.  I figured a quilt was a good way to try to make it up to him.


Most of the quilt blocks are a stack-and-whack improv variation of a pinwheel.  I like to call them Spooky Triangles.   I started out thinking that I might follow my friend Natalie's tutorial for pinwheel blocks you can find her tutorial here: Wonky Pinwheel Tutorial
Awesome, right?  However, Natalie uses squares of neutral fabrics and adds colors to either side.  This isn't exactly what I wanted to do as I wanted to vary where there was color and where there was neutrals.  Also, I didn't have scraps of fabric, I had yardage, and Natalie's tutorial works best with scraps.

Next, I looked a this page in Denyse Schmidt's new book Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration:

I liked how the values switch places, but I wasn't interest in making a quilt exactly like the one depicted. I decided to find my own way to get a similar effect, which I'm sharing with you today.

Step 1: 
Select two pieces of fabric of different values (one dark, one light). Press your fabric.

Step 2:
Place the fabrics on top of each other right-sides-up.  Cut both pieces to 9.5" inches square.  

Step 3: Decide where you'd like your triangle to point.  In this case, I've decided the triangle will point to the lower-right corner, so I'm cutting a triangle off of the upper-left corner (the opposite corner.)  I'm cutting a triangle that is about 3x3x4.  Any size is fine and should vary.

Step 4: Cut from the opposite corner to one of the points you just made in Step 3.

Step 5: Now do the other new point made in Step 3 to the same corner.

Your cut block should look like this.

Step 6:

Take the center pieces from each fabric and stitch them to the the small triangle cut in step 3 (of the other fabric) with a 1/4" seam.

Step 7:  Press the seams away from the center.


Step 8:
Attach another side to the central triangle. Proceed carefully.  It is easy to get mixed up and attach the triangles the wrong way.  Remember that all the points are in one corner and the big edges are in another.
You can attach the final side without pressing first.

Step 9:
Press the block so that all seams are away from the central triangle.

Step 10:  Trim the blocks.

I trimmed my blocks to 8" square, keeping the sharp point in the block, but cutting off the others.

Ouila! You now have two blocks!  If you wanted to make a lap-sized quilt, you'll need just 46 more!

Notice that the city print is still upright in both of these blocks.  I love that!  I can't stand it when fabrics end up on their sides or upside down.  Please note that if you use a one-way print (a print with a "top" and "bottom") you'll need to vary where your triangles point in Step 3 and throughout cutting, because you can't simply rotate the triangles without putting the fabric on its side or upside down.

It helps to use a design wall to keep track of your blocks.  These blocks have been placed to show that they are both in the upper-left of a set of four.

If you want to make something similar to my Halloween quilt in overall effect, here are a couple of additional notes:  about 1/3rd of the blocks are NOT spooky triangles.  I'm not the biggest fan of block-based quilts--they look too controlled/soulless/tidy for me--I find that messing around puts a little bit of extra life into a quilt.

Here's a picture with lines pointing to most of the non-spooky triangle blocks:
-the green lines point to traingles that are more like mountains than windmill blades.
-the blue points to a pair of block that just have a diagonal stripe
-the pink ones point to other variations

Some variation was also made by beginning step 1 with a piece of patchworked fabric, rather than a whole piece.  This usually happened because I was low on fabric, but I really liked the way it turned out!

Some of the other variation was made by sticking extra bits of color in as below.  This is me just deciding to spice things up by digging through the scrap bin!

And my favorite block was made when I messed up in Step 8 and then, instead of unpicking and resewing, I just kept going and made some weird spikes out of my wrongly done blocks!

Did anyone else make a Halloween quilt this year?  I'm surprised that I made a holiday quilt and that I might make another one to celebrate the coming of Winter.

Anyone is free to use this tutorial to construct a quilt; I just ask that they credit me, Rossie, with the design or inspiration.  If you use the tutorial and feel so moved, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar (no obligation).   Rest assured, the money goes into my business account and I will pay taxes on it through the business.

(a) I often feel that quilt patterns are over-priced, especially if I can tell just by looking at something how it was made.  I am almost never willing to pay $8 for a PDF quilt pattern.  However, I would be willing to give someone a dollar or two for using the idea they brought to my attention, I think you might be like me.

(b) I'm a copy-leftist. As such, I don't think it is possible or moral to claim ownership over most ideas or to try to control an idea.   I'm interested in people's willingness to volunteer payment for inspiration.

(c) I have bills to pay.  When this goes reasonably well, I can post more quilts on my blog, rather than keeping them secret while waiting for them to show up in magazines.

16 October 2012

The Featherweight, Revenge, and Quilt Backs

Oh my, I love this thing!

Since last I blogged, I did manage to clean, oil, thread, and start sewing on the featherweight.  I found a pdf of a manual thanks to some lovely commenters who told pointed me in the right direction. (Click here to download a copy).

I'm contemplating also getting this book:
Folks on instagram noted that it has a lot of great tips

I've already done over 15 hours of stitching on this thing.  I know the timing because I watched the entire first season of Revenge via Netflix.


It's entertaining and a little trashy...complicated enough to hold my interest, but not so complex that I couldn't follow whilst not so much watching as listening.  

The featherweight is noticeably quieter than my other machine, which is great for having videos or audio books going.  I don't have to set the volume too high.

Well, the quilt I stitched up must remain under wraps as it is destined for a magazine, but I did want to show you the back:

photo 2(1)

This is a sheet from The Company Store (100% cotton and bought on clearance, where you can still grab a king size flat for $32).  I love snagging high quality sheets on sale and using them as backs for my quilts.

I silk screened my name onto the sheet and wrote in the year with a permanent marker.  I haven't always marked my quilts with a name and year, but there's a quilt appraiser in the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild and she gave a little talk that explained in part how useful it is to have just that little bit of information attached to your work.

This is another quilt back I made ages ago:

photo 1(1)

It was a high-school graduation present for my cousin Derek.  It spells out his name and graduation year in morse code.

I was recently reminded of this when Gary pointed me towards his version of my kelp quilt on the Material Obsession blog:

photo by Kathy Doughty

Isn't that gorgeous?  He has done some kelp strips and mixed in some Morse code that spells "act love walk." 

I love the whole idea of codes in quilts.  Morse code is just one possibility.  Yoshiko Jinzenji also developed a code for writing messages into a quilt.

One of my works in progress (from...um...three years ago...yikes)  is a bee quilt using her code...
code quilt paragraph

I really need to finish that quilt! I think I was stalled by the lack of a design wall, but I don't have that excuse anymore!

09 October 2012

Four Weddings and a Sewing Machine

This last weekend marked the fourth wedding I attended in six weeks.

First, we had my cousin on August 31st:

Then my boyfriend's cousin on September 8th:
 Then my boyfriend's friend on September 22nd (gotta love the Super Mario theme!)
 And finally, another of my cousins on October 8th.

This last wedding involved a long weekend in Wisconsin (my home state).  My parents, brothers, an aunt visiting from England, our assorted partners and I all stayed in a gorgeous house on Green Lake in Wisconsin.  It was awesome.

Also awesome?
Having taken in my sewing machine for a tune-up and learning it would take over a week for the shop to get to it, I was thinking about my need for a back-up machine. Plan A has been to upgrade to a bigger Janome and use my current machine (which you can see here) as a back-up.  However, I don't think that's going to happen in the near future, so I was thinking about going with Plan B: snatching up another small machine for the time being. Maybe something used.

Well, on our way to Green Lake, we stopped at my aunt and uncle's house and I was showing my boyfriend the art and furniture that they had inherited from Grandma--many of the pieces are the counterparts to things I inherited and all are infused with spirit and memories.  And then it occurred to me; Grandma had a sewing machine and it might by laying about unused.

Now, I didn't know what this machine looked like or how well it worked, but I knew she had one, because she made quilts with it in her later years (more on that here and here). I asked my uncle about its whereabouts and he said that it was in the storage unit and he'd bring it to the wedding in a couple of days.

Imagine my surprise to discover that this was my grandma's machine!

A featherweight!
featherweight from 1948

I'm researching it now...trying to sort out how to clean it and thread it so that I can get to sewing!
halloweening So far the serial number reveals that it was made in 1948, so I suspect this was a wedding present! I honestly thought my grandma had some worn-down 1980s plastic monstrosity. Can't wait to get going on this thing!

04 October 2012

Conventional Wisdom

I can't believe this worked!


I batiked on conventional quilting fabric!!!  So exciting!!!

This may be a case of me mis-remembering things read long ago, but I swear that when I was first leaning to use wax resist (i.e., batik) to alter fabric, it was made clear that I needed to use pimatex.  Pimatex, pimatex, pimatex.  Because it has a higher thread count and will therefore be able to expel the wax effectively.  Pimatex.  Buy plain white pimatex and go from there.  Quilting cotton won't work.

This is frustrating because it means you are always starting from a bright white and completely blank canvas pimatex.  It means that unless you want the shapes you wax to be white...like these which I made in 2010...
batik fabrics
(which looks great, but isn't always what you want!)
You have to dye the fabric, then wax it, then dye it again.

I thought I had found a way to lighten the burden of dyeing the fabric when I discovered that Robert Kaufman makes some colored pimatex fabrics.  After trying and failing to find these fabrics online and in local shops, I asked my friend Brenda (of Pink Castle Fabrics) if she could order a bolt for me through one of her distributors.  I picked a the color "Steel" because it looked lovely and also neutral enough that if for some reason pimatex isn't pimatex (you never know), I wouldn't mind having 10+ yards of the stuff.

Well, when I my Steel Pimatex arrived, I decided to do a quick, sloppy trial of it.  Feeling experimental,  I also grabbed a print from an Art Gallery fabric line because I sweat their base cloth is Pimatex.  I also grabbed a scrap of quilter's cotton I had laying about.  Just to see.


I waxed everything up (I use the mix that Malka Dubrawsky recommends in her book Color Your Cloth. Which, if memory serves is 50% beeswax & 50% parrafin).

The picture below is of the three types of fabric.
1.  The light gray is the Robert Kaufman Pimatex in steel.
2.  The green tree fabric is from Erin McMorris's Wildwood collection, manufactured by Free Spirit. I picked it because it felt like a typical quilter's cotton to me.
3.  Finally, the bright pink print is from Art Gallery fabrics; it feels like Pimatex to me.

I also waxed some additional pieces of the steel pimatex fabric to try out some odd metal bits that I had laying around.  I wanted to see if these bits and bobs would would work with the wax and what pattern they would make.


Eventually, I threw everything into either an eggplant or a charcoal gray dye bath.

And then it came time to rinse the fabric and boil out the wax.

This is the step that isn't supposed to work for quilter's cotton.
But it did!  All of the wax came out!

I just wish I had stirred the dye bath more often.  I was really rather convinced that this wasn't going to work, so I didn't stir the dye very much, which is why that dye job looks so uneven.  Oh well!

The pink print came out nicely, too.  Not sure what I'll be using this for!

The steel pimatex also worked.  My experiments with the different tools + the half-assedness with which I stirred the dye + the colors I used when dyeing lead to a sort of gloomy creepy effect.

I've decided to run with it and am making a little Halloween lap quilt.
I love that the little ghosts match so well!

Spooky, right?  (Please excuse the lighting below, the color's aren't quite true).

Anyway, I'm pumped to try out batik on more base cloths to see what it's limits are.  It would be so awesome if I could batik right onto Kona cottons (or Bella or any of the big lines)! Next time, I'll be better about stirring that dye bath!