Thursday, March 29, 2018

Warning: Bridge Construction Ahead

I am pleased to announce that both my taxes and my bridge slice are done, and well ahead of their deadlines! After a bit more cogitation on how to construct my bridge, I started with perhaps the simplest part - the road bed - which could be done with a single strip of fabric. I'd noticed as I studied the reference photo that the bridge metal was picking up a yellowish tone, was not grey as I'd thought. I'd been auditioning grey fabric and threads but nothing was showing up well on both the dark mountain fabric and the lighter sky fabric. But yellow or gold, that was working on both really well. I cut the strip wider than necessary, pinned it in place along the lines I'd traced on the back of the foundation muslin and stitched with invisible thread.

Then I carefully trimmed close to the stitching to remove the excess fabric. Step one of bridge construction done!

Then it was on to the girders and guy-wires. Again, I worked from the back, stitching along my marks with grey thread, first the parts closer to the viewer, then after filling in those spaces on the front, stitching the ones farther away to maintain the overlapping occurring.

Now I had guidelines on the front for the threadwork that would form the narrow girders. I used two different colors of Superior Twist trilobal polysester thread threaded through a single needle to get the effect I was after. It took 3 to 4 passes of straight stitch rows right next to each other to fill the space between the grey thread outlines.

This got very fussy when I went back in to stitch the lines falling "behind" the already stitched ones. Not sure I was thinking clearly when I came up with the sequence. Many short lines, lots of threads overall having to be pulled to the back and tied off. And in the end, I'm not sure one can tell that there was no crossing over of sections in the foreground. And since I was using a straight stitch and not a satin stitch, and sewing through two layers, I didn't think there'd be an issue with pulling up. But there was. I really should have used some kind of stabilizer underneath, but thought I couldn't because of my guidelines on the back. Surely it will quilt out, right? I have since found out about Terial Magic which would have been a perfect solution for the stitching I did on this. I'm definitely getting some to try out. Are any of my readers familiar with this product?

Ahhhh, I'm done! Whoops - no I'm not! There's still a reflection to deal with. I was given the option to let the quilter put in the reflection as I guess she is doing for some of the others, but I'd already spent a lot of time thinking about how this could be done, and being stubborn, I wanted to try out the idea I came up with of using netting because, unlike other sheer fabric I was considering, it will not ravel. I inherited a lot of sheers from my late friend Judi, so pulled out her bin and started through it, finding this black netting with gold threads running through it. I decided it was darn near perfect and proceeded sewing it down in a way that can be easily reversed should the other slice participants over-rule me.

I approached this the same as the roadbed - pinning a big square of the netting over the reflection area on the front and stitching the outlines from the back with invisible thread, following the pencil tracings. The darker lines were stitched prior to pinning on the netting, and in grey thread because I wanted them to show. They are guy-wires. There were a few more but I chose to ignore them.

Once everything was stitched, the excess netting was carefully cut away. And I DO mean carefully because that invisible thread was indeed invisible to my eye.  I should note that I used the wrong side of this netting because the sheen off those gold threads on the right side was a bit much visually.

After the first removal, I went back in with curved scissors to clean things up, getting right up to the stitching, then added the line of metallic gold thread replicating a narrow part of girder reflection and a line of black poly and grey/orange Twist on the opposite side, the reflection of the cable running along the bottom of the bridge.

NOW I'm done, and quite pleased with the result. I've cropped the final photo to approximate the actual finished size of my slice (we were asked to leave a very generous allowance around all sides). And so that you have a reference, below is the photo of the Cobban Bridge that we are using as our inspiration. Read more about the bridge itself and efforts to save it plus watch a drone's eye view of it here. Can't wait to see what the other gals have done and how our quilter pulls it all together.

Historic Cobban Bridge - Chippewa County, WI

Monday, March 12, 2018

That One Person

Audrey Gayhart, the real treasure

I think most of us can think back to a particular person who was instrumental in setting us on a fortuitous path. As far as my quilting is concerned, that person would be Audrey Gayhart, who I recently learned had died at 81 years of age, surrounded by her pets and her quilts. Audrey is one of those friends who I exchanged Christmas greetings with, a once a year chance for us to catch up once we no longer lived close to each other. And when I didn't hear from her this last Christmas, I feared the worst. Fortunately, her daughter snagged my card and wrote me a lovely note to break the news, including Audrey's obituary and funeral card from which I've scanned these images.

Our Wisconsin "Cabin in the Woods"

Audrey and I first met at her guild's quilt show that was held in an historic home in Menomonie, WI. My husband and I had recently moved to Wisconsin, had a home built on 6 acres out in the country, and since I no longer had to work, my days were filled learning all I could about quilts and how to make them. 

The loft became my first dedicated sewing space - big enough to set up a full-size quilting frame and a ping pong table as a work table

I'd dabble enough in it before the move to realize this is what I wanted to put all my creative effort towards, sorry previously interesting cross-stitch, needlepoint, knitting and the like. I checked out books from the library, watched quilting shows on PBS, pored over the few quilting magazines available at the time. There in those magazines, I found information about quilt shows I could enter (this was prior to the availability of information on the internet that we are now so accustomed to), and as I honed my skills, I got brave enough to send quilts off to shows far and wide, gaining valuable feedback from the judging sheets. And of course, I kept my eye out for local exhibits like this guild show where I could see quilts up close and watch demonstrations. But if anyone asked me about my quilting, I'd blush and refer to myself as a closet quilter, not confident enough in what I was doing to admit to it in public.

But I was curious about this guild thing, picking up a flyer on my way out to see where this group met and when. This is when Audrey, sitting with a few other members on the porch of this lovely house, struck up a conversation with me. I believe I deflected her warm invitation to come to a meeting by saying, "I don't know, I'm sort of a closet quilter," at which I believe she said with a smile, "Well, maybe it's time to come out of the closet." I remember her as quiet and non-threatening and gently coaxing as she encouraged me to come to a meeting, assuring me that I would enjoy it and that I'd like the gals in the group. And please, she added, call me if you have any questions or need directions. Turned out she lived on a farm not all that far from me, on the way to the little town where the guild met. Oooooh, I don't KNOW, all my insecurities cried. But in the end, I made the 40 minute drive on back roads to attend a meeting, and Audrey stayed right by me to be sure I felt at home and included.

View from our property - a long ways from anywhere

I was active in this guild for probably less than a year, personal plans radically changing which required us to move out of the area. But I learned so much from these gals, had so much fun at the meetings, and probably best of all, gained confidence that I was indeed a quilter, and a pretty good one at that. Audrey and the Hearts and Hands Guild drew me out of my closet and showed me the social side of quilting which I would continue to pursue. And Audrey continued to impress me, not only with her quilting skills but her people skills, in the way she gently but firmly kept things on track during meetings and made sure no one felt slighted or embarrassed or too proud of their skills at the expense of others.

Wyoming Valley Star Exchange Block Quilt before quilting in 1995, completed December 1996

One of the activities this group introduced me to was block exchanges, an opportunity to work with a particular block which everyone else involved in the exchange was making and maybe be lucky enough to win those blocks, enough to make a quilt out of. I was nearly out the door when the last exchange was announced, and I felt since I'd committed to the exchanges for a designated period, I should take part in this last exchange even if I was gone. So I asked that they send me all the information and I'd send a block to fulfill my obligation. In this exchange, each person was assigned a color to use and mine was yellow. I wasn't happy with how it came out and remember thinking, I'd better remake this, in case I win the blocks, and so I made a better version to submit. I was very surprised and extremely happy that I actually did win the blocks. Fate or rigged? It was supposed to be a blind drawing, but I accused them of rigging it so I'd win the blocks as a remembrance of the guild. They did not deny it!

Audrey's block

The nice thing about the way this exchange was set up was that it was based on a finished quilt design, which we would not see until the blocks went to the winner. Not only did you get a set of blocks, but you would get the directions for finishing the quilt, and in my case, I think they even sent me the muslin for the sashings. All I had to do was make those smaller stars with fabrics from my stash (so fun going through all my fabric to pick just the right ones.) Each block was labeled with the maker's name, so I decided I would quilt a cartouche in the sashing under each block and ink in the maker's name, and elsewhere on the front, I added the guild information. I hadn't yet gotten into machine quilting so this special quilt got the hand quilting treatment. I've never used it, only folding it to drape over a rocking chair. But since moving to my latest digs, I've had no room for that chair, instead placing the quilt folded on a cedar chest in the bedroom, where it is often covered with discarded clothes. So I haven't really looked at it for a long time. Still, when I uncovered it to photograph Audrey's block, I knew right away which one was hers, which I find rather remarkable. I've lost touch with the others in this guild although some names do spark a memory or a face. Audrey has always been the constant link.

Audrey's Twin Brook Farm
Before moving, I did go out to Audrey's "Twin Brook Farm" that she spoke so lovingly about, viewed her quilts, her sewing room, listened as she described farm life as we gazed out the kitchen window. It would give me the visuals I'd use for years as Audrey recapped her experiences and family news and updated me on guild activities and members every Christmas. I am, understandably, sad she is gone (although she lost her husband the previous year and had health issues of her own so there's a little bit of blessing for her in her passing). I know that these last few years, she was very concerned about her UFO's and what would become of her many finished quilted items. I could relate, even though Audrey was quite a bit older than me and I theoretically have more time to work. Tick tock, time relentlessly moves on and we quilters have so many quilts we want to make, (and often so many made that we don't quite know what to do with). Thank goodness for people like Audrey, who encourage us down that path and continue to inspire and support us right to the end. Maybe someone else later on would have eventually drawn me out of my closet quilter mentality, but I am so thankful that it was Audrey with her lovely smile and gentle way, and thankful for the friendship she extended and maintained over the miles and the years. She's that one person who nudged me along when I needed it, up the path I'd tentatively started on that led me to where I am today. Job well done, Audrey, not just with me but with so many quilters' lives that you touched.   

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Raw Edge Applique Sans Fusing

"Oh man, I hope this wasn't a mistake." This was my thought as I started "collaging" my fabric onto the muslin base. I really didn't want to use fusible this time, especially since we'd been instructed by the person who will be doing the quilting for us to stitch the edges of all applique we might use on our slice. Doesn't matter that my fusible of choice does not need this step as it stays put, even along the edges, even through a wash. She's obviously had trouble in the past so I don't want to make her sigh unduly by not following her wishes. I've done applique without fusible or needleturning in the past, I think with satin stitching around the edges or taking care of the edges during the quilting process. I've not done it before quite on this scale where I will NOT be doing the quilting and where I don't really have pattern pieces to mark and cut out. Just trying to do some freeform cutting here. I also didn't want to "tack" pieces in place with glue stick or basting glue. I just wanted to lay down the pieces, pinning as I went (as I found in one tutorial), and then stitch along all those raw edges. Boy, I sure hope this is going to work.

And to my relief, it did work pretty well. The bush and grass definitely started looking better when I went from rough-cut blobs to releasing some of those leaves from their background.  I used invisible thread and a size 60 Microtex needle because it doesn't matter how invisible the thread is, the needle still leaves holes, so they may as well be as small as possible.

That batik at the bottom is one of my very favorites for portraying grasses. I have it in two colorways but both are eight yard cuts - long and skinny and not much overall. So I use it judiciously and couldn't resist adding it here. I'm wondering if I should add branches or slender trunks to the orange blob like I am seeing in the photo, but frankly, that's the sort of thing I would do with quilting. Until you are not responsible for that last step, I don't think you realize just how much you depend on it to add details and bring the design to life. Maybe the need for branches will seem obvious to our quilter. She did a great job of quilting our barn slice quilt, bringing all our individual quirks into a cohesive presentation. But before I can send my slice off to her, I still have that bridge to build. You can see I've gotten out some threads to try out on a sample.

Speaking of the barn slice quilt (scroll to the bottom of this post to view it), our group had decided that after it had toured some quilt shows, we'd eventually donate it to a charity for auctioning.  We chose Empty Bowls in the Eau Claire, WI area (where the other members of the group reside) which recently held that auction at their yearly event. To our great surprise and delight, it raised $400! So often, quilts go for a pittance at auctions, so this was exciting news and has renewed our enthusiasm for our current endeavor.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Applying "Refresh" To Studio

It may be March but that doesn't mean we're done with snow. This was the view out my studio window yesterday, after several hours of very wet snowfall. It was supposed to have arrived overnight, and I figured it would all be cleaned up by the time I was ready to run my Friday errands. Instead, I proved myself a true native northern Idahoan, making my way through slush and slick streets in my Subaru Outback while the big flakes snowed down on me! I was happy to arrive home safely and equally happy to settle in my studio for the rest of the afternoon.

Two things I've noticed about the way I've been approaching and feeling about the time I've spent in the studio since I established my "refresh" resolution word. I've always struggled putting into practice the idea that I don't have to wait until I have a big chunk of time before going in there to work. Not sure where this all-or-nothing mentality comes from, but it is my default thinking when getting ready to tackle anything, creative or everyday. To my delight, I've noticed a reversal in my thinking from "not enough time to really do anything" to "just enough time to do a little bit." I know, it is such an obvious thing, and I've tried before to make this change in thinking without much success. Maybe this time it will stick, my "refresh" reminding me that every little bit of progress adds up over time whereas doing nothing gets you nothing.

The other thing I've noticed is how relaxed I've been as I've worked on various things. I'm generally pretty wound up, stressing over design decisions, deadlines, a pile of things I want to get to but have to prioritize. It often makes me physically tense while working and can certainly take the enjoyment out of the process. I'm not sure why I've decided to work calmly with more pleasure, but it is a good refresh to the studio practice.

But deadlines still exist and here it is March, with me facing the same March madness of the last few years - 3 time-consuming projects barely started (two art related and the other taxes), all with mid-April deadlines! It was keeping me awake the other night, when I realized I'd done that to myself again, perhaps being a bit TOO relaxed about working in the studio and failing to factor in the unexpected like a week sick on the couch. Ok, I think I can still work calmly AND ramp things up a bit. Time to stop thinking and planning and dive into the actual work of the bridge slice quilt.

Plans are important, especially here where some design elements need to be in the right place to match those of the surrounding slices. That would primarily be the bridge, which we are all realizing has very small pieces. I'm still not 100% sure how I will carry it out but I do know that I will be stitching the outlines of it from the back of the muslin that the applique will be built up on. So step one is to turn the grayscale photocopy of my slice over and trace that bridge as well as its reflection in the water. I taped it to the window to do this.

Transferring bridge design onto back of muslin

Then I placed the muslin over it to transfer the bridge onto it. I have to say that the structure of the bridge was a jumble when viewed from the front and the color photo supplied. But in making the tracing, it finally started to make sense and I could see better in what order the pieces would be rendered. I also found myself hearing Lynne Chapman's admonition to not try to capture every detail - I knew something from my Sketchbook Skool course would carry over to my quilting! After tracing, I flipped the photocopy back over and taped it to my cutting mat, then flipped over the muslin and taped it over the photocopy, thinking I could make out the bigger sections of the design through it.

Masking off my section which is second (of four) from the left

Speaking of the color photo, I decided to tape strips of paper on either side of my part of it so I could more easily see what I was dealing with. I can flip them up if need be to study what will be on either side of my slice. I think I'm glad I'm not on an end again.

And then I hit my stash. I'd already picked out a sky fabric and several possibilities for water. Now I found something for the hill behind the bridge.

Tracing large areas of the design onto quilter's paper

Unfortunately, I simply couldn't see my "pattern" well enough through the muslin so today I tried plan B (always good to have a backup plan). I removed the muslin and traced the design elements I needed to see onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper.

The quilting paper tracing flipped down to check applique positioning

Now my pattern is no longer hidden under the muslin but available for reference. The muslin was taped back down and the top edge of the new tracing "hinged" with tape along the top of the muslin so that it can be flipped out of the way when placing a piece of applique on the muslin base, then flipped back down to check that the placement is correct. I can also see better the shapes I need to cut. Tackling the water is next, trying out a bit of collaging to utilize a too narrow piece of fabric.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Bit Of Admin

Comments. I love getting comments on my blog posts. That is, if they are not spam comments, which is what I was getting prior to eliminating the "anonymous" option for those wishing to share thoughts on my posts. My Wyoming reader's difficulty in posting comments has caused me to go back and look at how I had things set up, and yes, I'd forgotten about eliminating anonymous posts, and no, I didn't realize that the other options for signing in were so limited, and in this reader's case, impossible to comply with.

And so, I've reconfigured the comment requirements, opening them up to anyone, that is with one caveat. I did add that extra step of "prove you're not a robot." I'd not wanted to do that before because I knew my own frustrations at having to read and type in the captcha letters/numbers before allowing my comment to go through. But low and behold, it looks to me like it now only requires one extra step, just clicking on the "I'm not a robot" button, no codes to enter, before hitting "publish".

I still will monitor each comment before it shows up on the blog so don't be dismayed when your comment disappears from view once you take that final step. I hope changing these things to make it easier for readers to comment will open the door to others who perhaps were willing but unable to speak their mind here. If you have any issues, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at

Let the commenting begin!