Category Archives: quilting

At Crossroads

I have been away from this space for a long time. We have moved, we started settling in a new city and a new state. I have been homesick more than I would ever admit.

I thought about archiving this thing. I have been on and off blogging for a long time, but it never felt completely organic for me. What is the point?

But just in the last week or so, I decided to go back to it, for one purpose – standing for my rights. I don’t know where this is going yet, but for now the idea is to show you what I am working an and why. Let’ s see how it goes…

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Crossroads block #1

First up is the crossroads block 1. Because I feel we are at the crossroads, at a point where we need to ask ourselves what is next.
Ever since the inauguration day, I have been practically paralyzed and glued to the TV. I couldn’t believe what was happening in our country and to our country. To our people. All our people. My weaving was forgotten, loom half dressed. There was a pile of quilt tops that need to be basted and quilted. They were sitting on my bench in the living room. I sat at the sewing machine once and was not able to do anything. Completely uninspired and distracted by events that were shaping my children’s future in a scary, scary way.
I thought of turning of TV, delete Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone. Then I looked at my children again and thought, no, that’s wrong. Saying nothing is the same as agreeing with what is going on. With the president and the administration. I cannot stay passive and voiceless and look at my children in the face. I cannot stay passive and voiceless and look at myself in the mirror. I cannot stay passive and voiceless and sleep at night. I just can’t.
But, as I wrote a couple of posts ago: what can I do? I said quilt, but quilt what? Then one day I was listening to a podcast while walking the dog and I heard this story about the Underground Railway Quilts. According to this story, quilts with secret “codes”, known only to slaves, were made to help on the journey to freedom. These quilts would be placed on the dance or out to window to “air out”, but really they were signaling specific actions for the slaves on the road to freedom. For example, a log cabin block was used to signal that the place is a shelter or the person is safe to talk to. The stories of these quilts are part of African American folklore. Some historians do not believe this really took place but whether it really happened, or it’s just a story, it’s a beautiful one (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0205_040205_slavequilts.html).
As I was looking through the blocks and their supposed meaning (http://home2.fvcc.edu/~cgreig/final/blocks.html), I came across the crossroads block which is said to refer to Cleveland, Ohio, which was a place from which slaved could take several routes to freedom. It could also mean that a person has reached a point in their life when your life is about to change and you must be willing to go on.
That spoke to me. As I said, I feel we have reached point where we need to change our ways and decide which way to go; and stand our ground and persist and resist. Since then I have made many blocks and many more are coming.

Klar quilt: finished 😅

I am not going to talk about this quilt much in this post except to say I am so, so happy with how it turned out. I think this is going to hang on the wall. For all the details see Tutorial Part 1 and Part 2. More pictures on flickr.

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klar quilt tutorial: part 2

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In the Part 1 of this tutorial we fussy cut all the squares – the larger 3.5×3.5 in and the smaller ones at 1.5×1.5 in. Then we boxed the smaller squares with the background fabric, in this case white, and we ended up with 49 squares that need to be assembled in the quilt top.

To speed up the process, and at the same time not loose track of which squares go where, I chain stitched 2 by 2 columns – all you do is pick up the squares of the columns you are working on in two piles – making sure you keep the order and then you stitch two and two together without breaking thread, like so…

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Order in which you sew these columns is up to you. The following two pictures show what I had done – in the first pass I stitched columns 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6; which left me with 4 “new” columns. So in the second pass I sewed together blocks in columns 1 and 2 and then 3 and 4, and so on.

Or if you prefer an illustration…

Almost done. Each row is separated with a 1 in strip, so you need to cut 6 strips 1.5 in wide and as long as the width of your rows + 1 in. Why + 1 in… I just prefer to have a little extra that I can cut off , than to have to cut another strip; also I am not a very accurate cutter so I like to have a bit of a buffer to work with. For this particular example – 7 blocks 3 in in width finished size, plus two raw edges at each side of a row, makes 21.5 in. I cut strips around 22.5 in.

Once you have your strips all you have to do is sew them in between the rows. The tricky part here (not that tricky but something to think about) is to align the squares vertically across the strips. That’s it. Once you have all the rows connected simply cut off the excess).

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The very last step is – the border. I cut the strips 4 in wide. That will give me about 3 in wide border once the binding is on. That’s it. All you have to do then is sandwich and quilt it. Done!

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If you are looking for the Part 1 of this tutorial you can find it here.

Klar quilt tutorial: Part 1

Pink Quilt - finishedOnce upon a time, there was a quilt simply called “Pink”. It was my first. OK, my second, but my very first based on my own pattern. It was a small quilt, that was gifted to a little baby girl, born not long after the quilt was made. I almost forgot about this quilt, until one day I got a message from a reader asking for a tutorial. I also realized that it has made it’s rounds on pinterest, and had a small following. My little, simple, pink and white quilt.

So I decided to make another one, using the same pattern (I have never yet repeated a pattern, because there are so many different patterns to try, right?), but quite different fabrics and write a little tutorial. Inspired by Yoshiko Jinzenji stunning quilts from Quilting Line and Color: Techniques and Designs for Abstract Quilts, I am making a red/black quilt that involves a lot of fussy cutting from a variety of fabrics, some quilting some ikea home decorating fabrics, going for bold lines and colors.

The tutorial will be in two parts, In the first part I will go over cutting and assembling the squares with the smaller color squares in the middle. And in the second one I will put them all together. I realize that the second part will be quite short, but I am writing this as I am making the quilt so there you go :).

STEP 1

Let me tell you first a little bit about how I work. I almost never preplan my quilts. I might make a sketch, like I did for this one (see below), but it’s just an idea. It is definitely not a full drawing, just a basic layout. Then I start cutting. I start with one or two blocks (depending on the pattern, it this case it would be two blocks because they are different) in the size I think I want, put them side by side on my design wall, imagine the approximate quilt size and see if I like the proportions. If not, I resize blocks. When I’m happy with that step, I start pulling out fabrics and cutting. But again, I don’t pull out all the fabrics and I don’t cut all at the same time. I might start with a color inspiration, pull out a few fabrics, cut a few blocks, arrange them on the wall, and then I repeat. By the time I’m done the color scheme might have change from the initial idea. I understand that this makes for a slower process, but the other way around does not work for me.

I think this might be why I never wrote many tutorials, because by the time I’m done, I would have to make a new quilt just to figure out what I did. I think I need to do it as I am working on a quilt, that way I have everything documented.

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OK, back to this quilt. This illustration below shows the layout for this quilt. Note that it is a bit different than the original Pink quilt because I wanted the bigger squares to be on all four corners of the design. The original idea was to make the smaller square 1/3 the size of the bigger square – the bigger square is 3×3 in and the smaller is 1×1 in **finished**.

klar quilt layout So let’s start; you will need to cut:

25 larger squares (3.5 x 3.5 in) and
24 smaller squares (1.5 x 1.5 in).

This is what my design wall looks like when I finished cutting and arranging my squares. I also take some blurry pictures which help me see the arrangement of colors.

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STEP 2

In step 2 we will be assembling the block with the smaller square in the middle. To better illustrate what I am talking about here is another image of the layout, this time with a little bit more information, to show you exactly how this quilt is assembled.

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Here you can see that each row of the design has two alternating blocks: one big dark square you cut out in step 1, and a square with the smaller dark square sashed in white. Also, rows are separated by a white strip but that will be covered in Step 2.

block assembly

And this is the layout for the block we are assembling. The numbers indicate the order of sewing (this is basically log cabin square). For this step you will need to cut (all from white or background fabric):

24 squares 1.5 x 1.5 in (piece 1);
48 rectangles 1.5 x 2.5 in (pieces 2 and 3);
24 rectangles 1.5 x 3.5 in (piece 4).

Here you can see my cut squares for step 1. I chain pieced them in each of the four steps. That way I can also keep track of the order I took them off the design wall.

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Piece 2 cut and waiting to be sewn on. I forgot to take pictures before piece 3 and 4 were sewn, but you get the picture.

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Here are all the shares finished. I wanted to show you the back of one of them – if I can I always press my seam open. I like how they look from the front – much smoother then if you press them on one side. The seams are also harder to see when the quilt is finished.

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Here is the final layout for Part 1 of this tutorial. Next we will sew the rows together, add white strips between the rows and the border around this center design.

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And I leave you with a little closeup of the fabrics…

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New tutorial

I sat down the other day to write an outline for this tutorial and ended up drawing most of it. This is just a tiny bit of it…

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I have one final thing to finish and then I’ll scan it in and post it here.

strimla quilt – finished

Finally! That’s the first thing that comes to mind… I have had issues with a number of quilts, from wrong calculations (while watching Arrested Development!), to mistakes cutting or piecing, and yes, quilting. But this one was a special kind of problematic.

** EDITED 10/01! I really, really disliked the photos I took and posted here, so today I went for a bike ride and had a little photoshoot at the beach. I have replaced almost of the pictures except for the last one, and that just because i forgot to take a new photo of the back. Oh well. Oh and a few that show some detail that were not so bad.**

Let’s start with photographing. When I thought I was done and all that’s left to do was to take a few photos…. Well… Maybe it was the lighting, maybe the colors of the quilt, but you can see in the following photos how different it looks. Sometimes yellowish, sometime bluish…

Strimla quilt

Strimla quilt

Then it was the dimensions: it all started with the dark blue square in the middle. One day, uninspired (or possibly too hot, that’s just the kind of year we had here) to finish a quilt I was working on, I pulled out some scraps and made that square. It was about 10 in square.  I really did not know what was to become of it, so I pinned it on my design wall and then it sat there for months.

Strimla quilt

Strimla quilt

Finally, when we got back home from visiting fun places (and family) in Europe, I made two more squares, this time in light blue. Then one yellow and one orange and then I came up with this center design. I finished all the color squares (you can see a few more WIP photos here), added two white squares (can you see that? it’s basically a huge nine patch) and then… then what?

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I thought about simply adding white background but that would have been to easy, right? So I decided to add more nine patch squares in very light white/gray fabrics. The idea was to mirror the big nine patch, with the darkest share in the middle and two white on the sides (I am not sure if that is obvious or not?). Also, the background nine patch had to be as big as one patch in the middle, but since my color blocks were about 10.5 in, I had to cut a really weird size (for the finished size of 10 in for the nine patch, each square needed to be 10/3 in finished size, and that;s just not a fun number!). So here we have issues with dimensions and cutting.

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I could have finished there but I still felt something was missing. That;s how the border was born. Since it’s all about squares and the decreasing dimensions I wanted to go with a border that will be made up of even smaller squares in a different orientation. And I wanted the side of these border squares to be the same as the diagonal of the nine patch background squares. I had no idea how many problems I will run into when I made this decision. Not just because of cutting another weird size square, but also because the sides of my quilt as it was now (without the border) was very stretchy on the edge because the edge was all of those bias cuts. So when I attached the border, which I realized later was quite longer than each of the sides, I got ruffles! yes, the border was like a big ruffle all around. I tried ironing it down. No go. So it had to be ripped. And you have no idea how I dislike ripping. But it had to be ripped, shortened and sewed back on. But the sides were stretched already, so even with shortening the border, it came out a little wobbly. But i was not going to rip again, and I decided it will have to do and it will have to be taken care of during quilting. Note to self… next time you have a bias edge, stitch it before adding a border or binding to prevent stretching! (like you would do when sewing clothes – when finishing the neck with bias tape – always stitch around the edge first so it won’t stretch!)

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I initially planned to straight line quilt it. Quite densely. But because of the waviness of the border I knew I would get into trouble, so I decide to do the free motion quilting which I knew I could get around a little bit of extra fabrics at the edges (see above?). I was not really happy about having to do this, but it would have to do. And I hoped it would shrink a bit in the wash and as it gets wrinkly, it would not be so noticeable… And it really wasn’t. It is so deliciously wrinkly and soft.

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One more closeup of quilting… And one more note – I really don’t enjoy free motion quilting. I prefer quilting straight lines and I do prefer the look of it. But you got to do what you got to do. And I am really happy how it turned out, problems and all. I was close to burying it on the bottom of the WIP pile, and forget about it. But I am happy I did not.

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And the background (Lands End sheet with matching blues).

20140926-095717-35837585.jpg Finished size: 50 x 66 in. I think that’s one of the largest quilts I made.

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Look, my bike color matches the color of the beach tower!

too hot to quilt

If there are any regular visitors to this blog they might be surprised that there is very little quilting or weaving or just general making going on here. The reason is the heat. Yes, the heat.

Before I elaborate, let me show you what’s waiting to be quilted:

Basting. Isn't my ductape fun? (How do you spell ductape?)

I actually quilted about a half of this one before this current heat wave. I do not really want to change settings on my sewing machine, because I had some tension problems, so the machine is sitting unused until this one is quilted.

Final arrangement?

Then there is this one which was waiting for an appropriate backing. And then it got hot. so it’s waiting. I don’t even have a decent picture of the finished top (which is finished, just not sandwiched yet), just this bad instagram photo. I might have fallen out of love with this one. A little bit.

Top finished

Another crappy pic, but at least of the finished top. I almost quilted this one in the spring but I had no idea how to quilt. I like straight lines, but I just wasn’t feeling it. So it waits.

And finally there is this one. That makes it 6 quit tops to sandwich and quilt. Hmmm

Definitely don;t know how to quilt this one. This one might need some hand quilting.

You might this that’s it but I actually have one more, that I never photographed. It ended up quite big, so I was even thinking of just tying it. I should get off my butt right now and take a picture of it, but you know what – yes, it’s too freaking hot.

So what about all this whining about the heat? 90ish F is not that bad! No, it’s not if you are used to it, if you have air-conditioning, if it happens rarely, or when it’s supposed to happen like during Summer. But here in Southern California, especially on the West Side (read – near the ocean), we are not used to these temperatures; maybe a few days a year but not off and on for months. If you didn’t know, California is experiencing the worst drought on record, coupled with the hottest year to 18 months since late 19th century, when they started keeping records.

Our houses here on the West Side were not built for this kind of weather. Even the new homes usually do not have ac, because we really never needed it. A few days around Labor Day and we were done with the heat. Anybody can take that. But over the last year or so, it feels like the worst of the summer never ended. So, take a person like me, who does not take heat well, who defines nice weather as fog and or drizzle (or at least temps below 70 F) , and conditions like this – and you’ve got one very grumpy and uninspired person. OK, maybe not completely uninspired…

Our house was built in 1912, and then expanded in the 70s, with a two room addition to the back of the house, which faces south. For reasons I do not understand, they did not use insulation in the walls. So those two room would get quite cold in the winter and hot during those infrequent heat spells. The problem we are experiencing now is that the house never really cools down, even if we have a few cooler days. So why not installing an ac? Well, the house was gutted in the 70, but again it was built for the coastal weather. Windows are single pane, a few are glass shutters windows that never really close all the way, and we don;t really have many doors – except for the bedroom, it’s one open space. It would be very, very inefficient and expensive to have ac. So we survive with fans. But let me tell you, I have had enough of the heat, fans giving me a headache, sweating all the time. I did not sign up for this. If I wanted these temps, I would have stayed in Texas – at least I would have ac! I think I might be going heat crazy…

This past spring break we RV-ed through British Columbia, CA. And on a really bad, hot day, I think of all the greenery, rain and fog. That’s my kind of weather. That’s the weather that inspires me, lets me think… Heat is overrated, exhausting and seriously mind numbing. Sometimes I feel like I am a north-west girl trapped in the south.

So can you imagine sitting at a sewing table in this heat, holding a blanket over you? No, I didn’t think so. Also my sewing room is in the back of the house, it has no doors so I cannot cool it off at all. The quilts just have to wait. Weaving will have to wait. Posts about quilting or weaving will have to wait. Until the temps cool off. In the meantime, there will be photos, blackout words, and who knows what else.

Thanks for listening to the rant. Most people do not understand how one can not like sunny hot days, and enjoy fog and rain. But that;s just how I am…