Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to the Dance

As is often the case, yesterday's work looked better to my eye today than when I stopped last night, but I still need to think about how I might make it more my own. And so, I totally switched gears and returned to "Dance." It's another one that was sidelined for further thought. I fused additional painted fusible along the top - a bit of sunset above the mountain backdrop is how I see it. Along with spools of thread, I'd set a couple of fabric scraps aside with this, and now I puzzled as to why. Ah, yes - I wanted to punch it up a bit, and toyed with the idea of adding green foliage and perhaps something that would look like flames or embers. Dancing by firelight, although the viewer will have to use imagination for that.

Since the top is covered with painted fusible, I snipped little shards of green and a sherbet orange to fall over the top, covered it with parchment paper and ironed. It looks like the shards will stay in place, and there will be some quilting over them as well. Starting to look like a party to me. Still pondering what color of thread will bring out my dancers. But I think I am ready to layer this up and start quilting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gotta start somewhere

And this is it. I've been spending the last few days playing with my poppies and peonies idea. Basically, I wanted to try incorporating the specific colors of the poppies and peonies that bloom side by side in my garden into a quilt. I've been wanting to try Alison Schwabe's freehand curved piecing technique ever since I saw it in Quilters Newsletter Magazine back in 2004. Yeah, time flies. I thought her method might work well to create the abstract rendition I had in mind. Since I have very little of the "perfect" poppy orange, I knew my first go at this would be done with other fabric. I nearly fell into the trap of looking looking looking for another close match. I do this all the time, this hang-up with literalism that wastes so much of my time. I settled on these 5 inch charm squares left over from my days in the hand-dyed fabric business. Yes, the orange is stronger than my poppies, but who except me would know?

Actually, you should start with pieces wider in one direction, but since I wanted to end up with rectangles, these squares were ok. You start by stacking two pieces of fabric right sides up and cutting two gentle curves across them using a rotary cutter. And when I say gentle curves, I mean gentle curves. I was surprised how quickly a curve can become a challenge to pin and sew without puckers.

Then separate the layers, trading the center sections; each pair of squares makes two blocks when you cut this way for a single insert of color. I was thinking this was one of those no mark no pin methods which is so out of my comfort zone, so I was relieved to find that you butt the pieces next to each other and place hash marks across the cut edges to aid in matching in the next step. You can see the marks (made on the right side of the fabric) if you click on the picture for a larger view.

From here you treat this like any curved piecing. Don't be afraid to use as many pins as necessary, starting from the center and working out. Pin such that any fullness will be on the bottom as it runs through the sewing machine. And avoid sewing over the pins.

There may be marking and some matching and pinning, but there is no need for accurate 1/4" seams. In fact, this goes much easier with narrower seams, and I settled on using the inside of my presser foot toe as a guide. That gave me a seam allowance of about 1/8 inch. That might be a problem with fabric that isn't as tightly woven as batiks and hand dyes, but it worked fine here.

This is why you would normally start with fabric wider in one direction. The seams are going to start shrinking your block. With two seams I've already gone from 5 inches to less than 4-1/2.

The problem with this method - well the problem for me - is that it gives you positive/negative blocks. I actually need blocks with the green always reading as the background. And it was quickly obvious that only 1 insert per block did not give me any decent designs or flow when I tried arranging them.

So I thought a bit and reasoned that I could stack two different blocks and make a single cut, trading the cut-off piece and sewing it back on to make more complex blocks. (The right side of these blocks are what was cut off and traded.)

Not all blocks could accommodate another cut like that, so I thought some more and reasoned that I could still do curved cuts in order to join two blocks together. All it takes is to keep them face up and overlap slightly, keeping the cut on the overlap. Ah, I like this best and know how I can use this idea to conserve fabric and have a bit more control over the design. I like that this is a free-form and somewhat random process yet still has some of the vestiges of control in the marking and pinning.

What I'm not crazy about is the finished product. I like the color palette, but admit it, you've seen this quilt before. Anyone who learns these freehand curved methods is going to end up with similar looking quilts, things that look too much like the teacher's. Just changing the orientation from Alison's horizontal to my vertical to mimic swaying flowers isn't enough. The trick now would be to figure out how to put my signature on this. And that is going to take some thought.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Change of Plans

Today is my birthday, and I figured I'd spend it a lot like a did last year - hanging out at the city beach. But after Saturday's hike, that no longer sounded appealing. I wanted to get out and hike again, have an adventure. I checked a listing of trails closer to home, and chose Mineral Point which is rated easy. About the same distance as Saturday's hike, but with only 200 ft gain in elevation, not 1000 ft. Easy peasy, and a perfect day for it. I headed the 15 or so miles to Garfield Bay, near my destination.

I'd not been out this way before. What a gorgeous view this little community has of Lake Pend Orielle. My directions were a bit sparse, and I made a couple of wrong turns before finding the road leading up to the trailhead, surprised to see signs telling me it was another 4 miles.

And those 4 miles were along a narrow dirt road climbing up into the mountains.

But hey, I have an Outback so no problem. I felt like a Subaru commercial, the one about letting the car wear the dirt like a badge of honor.

So obviously, this trailhead starts at the top and heads down.

Within a few feet, I was met by this stunning view.

So the first section of the trail skirted a bluff with more breathtaking views.

And trust me, it was a straight down drop if you wandered off the trail while gawking. I have a bit of a problem with heights, which I never think about until I'm standing on the edge of one of these viewpoints. Um, back away and don't look down...

The trail heads down fairly quickly away from that bluff and into the woods. Switchbacks speed the decent. Those two trees on the right are huge - the trail beside them only a couple of feet wide.

Gnarly limbs on that one.

The trail winds through cool dark stands of big cedars, ponderosa, and perhaps white pine? Not sure about the last one. I was struck by the quiet - only an occasional chirp of squirrel or bird. I know that this trail is supposed to end at water's edge, but I feel a long way from the lake.

The trail heads up - I can hear a boat motor so know the lake is near. At 45 minutes in, I'm still on the side of the mountain with the lake way over there.

I top out and round a corner - they've place a bench to provide hikers a place to rest and enjoy the view.

And somewhere down there is my destination. I'm not buying this "mere 200 ft elevation change" stuff. I'm having second thoughts about going the whole two miles, thinking about the steep sections I'll have to negotiate on the way back. This is not what I envisioned when they said this was an easy hike.

But of course, I forge on, enticed by these views.

Still looks like a long ways down to me.

And it was but I finally reached the end of the trail. Here I'm looking back the way I've come, the sign confirming the 2 miles back to the car.

But I'm still not at the beach - I'm at the camp ground which is perched above the water.

I can hear people over at the beach - way over there.

Kids are canoeing by.

And over the other direction a family has arrived by boat. I can hear them splashing in the water.

How beautiful is this? I'm so lucky to live here.

And I've discovered I have not hiked to a remote beach only accessible by boat or foot, but to the Mineral Point Camp ground accessible by car. Hmmm.

To be honest, I didn't want to hike back up that trail. I'd absorbed the gorgeous views. I dreaded the steep sections, particularly as it neared the top. I knew where I was, remembered passing the sign for this campground, and also remembered that the road had only a brief gentle incline until it flattened out on the way to the trailhead. I decided I was hiking back via the road. Was it 2 miles or 1 from the sign? Don't care, and I headed up to the main road, thinking it wasn't far. Slight miscalculation - it was actually a pretty steep mile, but by the time I figured that out, it was too late to turn back. I actually did pretty well hiking up it, and then the main road was as I remembered. Not totally devoid of views, and an easy (my definition of easy) 2 mile walk.

Again, I saw few wildflowers - this one was along the side of the road near the trailhead. Walking the road, I noticed several swampy areas I'd missed when driving by in the car. It always fascinates me to be on the top of a mountain, peer through trees and see an open meadow and water like that. In less than an hour, I was back to the car and more than ready to head home. The hike, including picture taking, had taken about 2 hrs 45 minutes, and instead of hiking a shorter route than Saturday, I'd actually hike a mile farther - 5 miles in all. So much for slowly building up my stamina. But I felt I handled it better physically so no harm done.

I finished off my birthday with a trip to Dub's Drive-In for the classic summertime meal: deluxe burger, fries and a malt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Designing with Computer Software

As I've noted before, working with photo manipulation software can be quite addictive. I've been playing more with the idea of coming up with additional designs I can print out for padfolios like the ones here. This time, I started with my day lily photo above. Its landscape orientation makes it easier to fit on my 8-1/2 x 15 inch template.

Previously I've done all the running through filters with the original image in its original size, then worked to make it fit on the longer orientation. This time I pasted the original image onto the padfolio template and stretched it to fit. Only then did I started playing with the filters with an eye towards designs that would look good as padfolios. Not all cool designs will work equally well I'm thinking. Remember that this fabric will fold at about the 5-1/2 inch mark and fold again to create a flap about 3 inches wide. I think this kaleidoscope filtered one would be pretty exciting, the center being offset on the back of the padfolio.

This kaleidoscope one is a bit tamer, but subtle can be nice too, and stitching will jazz it up.

Of course, if orange is not your thing, you can always play with the color adjustment bars.

And I couldn't resist running it through the "puddle" displacement map.

I perused my files of earlier photo manipulations and decided to work with this one based on azalea blooms. Rather than stretch or tile it as I've done before, I decided to play with varying sizes overlapping.

I have someone interested in some of these for the men in her life, so I was looking for colors and designs more applicable to that gender. My file of manipulations based on a photo of icicles provided some possibilities. Above are 2 different wave manipulations stretched to fit.

And these two use yet another wave manipulation. The top one uses the portrait orientation repeated side by side, but not sized down to fit the width. That allows the one on the left to be positioned slightly higher. The one below is the manipulation in landscape orientation and stretched to fit.

This one was the same icicles photo put through the pattern filter. It is tiled to cover the space to avoid the distortion that stretching would cause.

I'd also been playing with my pansy picture, the one I'd done a seamless tile on but hadn't come up with anything I liked. I stopped with this version, tiling the seamless tile across my template.

Then I got to work and stumbled on some great versions. This one quite stunning but I'm not sure it's padfolio material.

Another kaleidoscope I just love it reminds me of a china pattern.

This one was run through the displacement map filter set on wave zoom, but tiled instead of stretched. I played with the rotation a bit and really like what I came up with.

Three equally likable versions run through the wave filter.

And finally the "puddle" displacement map version - I have a lot to play with here! So a friend asked if, now that I have a printer that I can print my own fabric with, will I ever need to buy commercial fabric again? But of course! Woman cannot live by 13 x 44 inch fabric pieces alone! I doubt I'll ever not be enticed by batiks. No way could my limited imagination come up with everything I might need to pull off my quilt art. Not to worry, fabric stores - I'll be returning...