Thursday, October 29, 2009

June's Jockeying

"Jockeying in Underwood's Queue"
June Underwood 2009

It is quickly nearing the end of October, and June has shared with me her response to my "Jockeying in the Queue." She's blogged about it here, and I was relieved to read that she, too, has been dealing with a busy month and a late start on the challenge. She's done early only because she's off on an extended trip, and admits there's some editing she'd like to do when she gets back (and the paint dries). It would appear that the theme of jockeying this month applies to us in many ways.

So where is my response to June's October challenge, you may ask? It's not that I haven't been working on it; I have. In fact, I became so engrossed in the design process that I have only begun to choose and cut fabric the last few days.

I've set myself a technical challenge which has required a lot of tracing and transferring and enlarging of my pattern. My original sketch was journal size, and I decided to copy it to drawing paper so I could try out color placement with Prismacolor pencils. I first traced it onto tracing paper, then rubbed graphite on the underside along the design lines (right in the above photo). Then when the tracing paper was placed over the drawing paper, I could run over the lines with a dry ball point pen to transfer a faint impression of my design (left) which you might be able to see if you click on the photo.

I didn't have as much luck with the colored pencils as I'd hoped. Much like searching my fabric stash, I found I didn't have the colors or values of specific colors I had in mind, and only had modest success in blending colors. Still, the exercise pointed out places where I need to be careful about value choices in the sky and let me try out an idea for segmenting it. It also helped me see I needed a better distribution of the different browns for the trees. I made the connection that I could alter the color of the fabric with stitch, just as I was altering the color put down with the pencil with other colors streaked on. I could have played with this for days, but time was running out. It was time to enlarge my pattern to our predetermined challenge size of 12 x 16. Since I had scanned the original sketch, I was able to let my computer do the enlarging, printing out the quadrants full size for me to tape together.

I should have taped it to a light box or window. I had to trace it twice - once onto a large piece of tracing paper which I could then place on the light box so that I could transfer the design onto newsprint for my master pattern. Once that was done, I traced a mirror image version onto freezer paper which will become the templates.

Now I had a puzzle to decipher and a numbering system to devise. This entire pattern will be cut, the individual pieces ironed to fabric and the fabric pieces re-assembled into the finished top. With all the dancing and intertwining going on, I needed a plan. I divided the design into 4 main sections, then labeled the pieces within a section in something close to the sewing sequence. This code was transferred to the master pattern as well. I also added hash marks to aid in matching up the curving seams.

At last, I was ready to start construction, beginning with the trees (I had the least question about fabric choice with them). After ironing on a template, the fabric is marked along the edge of the freezer paper (seam lines) and hash marks are transferred to the seam allowance. I've perfected sliding a small ruler along the seam line while I trim away the excess fabric to give me 1/4 inch seam allowance along the curves. Yes, this is a tedious and time consuming process, but one I find worth it once I get to the sewing.

I quickly realized that, since I was not cutting and applying templates in sequence, I would have to find a way to keep track of the loose templates as I cut them apart. I'd pinned my master pattern to the design wall to help me keep track of placement as I cut out fabric; it was the perfect place to pin the extra templates until I needed them. The trees are all cut now, although I am considering changing the fabric in one of them - that is the beauty of this system. It is so easy to change a fabric if it isn't working well - I'll be able to see the complete composition before sewing a single stitch. Tomorrow I think I'll start on the sky - what I end up using there will influence the values I should use in the ground more so than the other way around.

I can see I will not be done by Saturday. I appreciate June's relaxed approach to our challenge. It is allowing me to revisit ideas and explore approaches that I might otherwise set aside until I had more time. Of course, we never do have more time. It is very hard for me to approach these challenges in an off-hand way, to dash something out as some can. No, I allow myself to get engrossed in the idea, in the planning, in the process. It's what I enjoy about quilting, and sometimes it's just not worth it to me to rush it.

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