Sunday, 25 March 2012

March Journal Quilt Part 2

My March journal quilt is all finished.  Like most of these pieces it changed a bit as it went along but here is the final thing.

I hand stitched all the red squares using variegated thread.  It all stayed quite firm but then most of it was two or three layers of fabric.  I was flicking through a book of Klee paintings when I came across one called 'Landschaft bei Sonnenintergang'.  The book is in German because I bought it when I was living in Germany many years ago.  My German isn't brilliant but I think this painting is of a sunset with the last of the sunlight reflected on the walls of houses.  The original also has some small blobs of green to represent houses but I left these out.  I tried to find this painting on Google images but failed.  It is not as well known as many of his works.

I used silk dupion for the yellow pieces and blanket stitched them with rayon thread so that they were shiny.  The binding is very dark red dupion.  I think the whole piece is a bit less transparent than Rosemary Claus Gray's work.  With fabrics like this you should really be able to look through the piece so photographing it against a piece of foamboard doesn't do it any favours.  I notice that Rosemary frames her work although it does fulfill the criteria of layers for quilts.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Working with sheers

Time to start on my March journal quilt.  I have been very keen on the work of Paul Klee for as long as I can remember and have books, postcards etc. of his work.  He is one of the few artists whose work I have made a point of seeing in block-buster exhibitions down the years and it always amazes me how small much of it is.  He often used watercolour and/or pastel to do backgrounds of small squares in different colours so I thought I would pursue this idea.  I had also made a note of the work of Rosemary Claus-Gray which was featured in Quilting Arts some time ago.  There is some very interesting work on her website although I am wondering if she has retired because it does not appear to have been updated for two years.
Rosemary uses scrim and cheesecloth and I had dyed this as well as linen in various shades of red and pink in my red dyeing day recently.

She mainly hand stitches her pieces and I fancy doing that although I realise that it will take some time and there are deadlines for journal quilts!  I may do the April quilt, for which I have some ideas, before I finish this one so I thought a 'work in progress' posting would be in order.

I have now layered all the fabrics.  The base is polyester organza, simply because I have almost run out of dyed silk organza.  I recognise that there will be some challenges, not just in the stitching (thickness of thread, keeping the piece reasonably stable etc.) but also in deciding on a suitable binding/finish.  Layering such sheer fabrics means that the overlays create a lovely array of colours.

I have had great trouble photographing this piece.  The apricots come out as orange and even tweaking the colour in Elements doesn't help that much so apologies.  Hopefully the final quilt will look better.  am using raw edge applique and this gives lovely effects with frayed fabric although fabric tears better than others.

The next step is to baste all the pieces together.  I am not sure exactly when I am going to do this, given that tomorrow is my husband's sixty-fifth birthday and he becomes a state pensioner!  We are going out to lunch with friends to celebrate so sewing time will probably be even more limited than usual.  And, in case you ask, I am a couple of years older than him so, as a woman in my age group, I have been a pensioner for some time.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

February Journal Quilt

Here in the far south-west, we often do not get much real winter.  This means that flowers bloom early, especially camellias.

Every year I find myself taking photographs of them and sometimes they form the basis of some form of art work.

Many of them are red and others pink so they seemed like a good subject for my February quilt.

I had also been rereading a book I have on Hundertwasser .   (Sorry that the link address is so long!)  It has wonderful colour photographs and I realised that two distinctive features of his work are very bright colours and narrow 'stripes' of colour so I decided to apply these principles to a design based on camellias.

This quilt was much quicker to make than January's.  I took one of the pieces of red cotton that I had dyed and made the base from that.  I machine quilted it heavily with variegated threads.  This approach seemed right for the scale of the piece.  I made a paper mock up of the whole design and then went to my substantial collection of pieces of silk of various kinds: dupion, polyester satin, etc.  It was interesting how some pieces changed colour for the worse when placed next to others but I selected a group that went together.  These were bonded and appliqued over the top of strips of very fine ribbon for the stems.  I am determined not to buy any new fabric for these quilts! - although that may be famous last words.

The squirls are the thing that really pay homage to Hundertwasser.  I had quite a few really thick threads that I had acquired over the years plus some that I had dyed along with the red fabrics.  They obviously had to be couched and I did this by hand.

I have used my new Bernina 350 in making these two quilts.  I am very pleased with its ability to do free machine quilting without having to fiddle with the tension or change the base plate (as I don't have a round holed one to fit this machine).  I am used to spending hours on the Artista adjusting the tension for free machine quilting!  It came with both a walking foot and a free machine quilting foot and there is a No. 20 which I use a lot. The other feature that has come in handy is a switch that enables you to use the machine without a foot pedal.  At the end of January I slipped very badly in the shower and pulled some ligaments/muscles (don't really know what since the doctors aren't interested!).  I have been suffering badly and when, after a week, I did a couple of hours sewing with the foot pedal, my leg ended up feeling as bad as it had on the first day.  So I have been using this switch.  It is a bit like swopping from a manual to an automatic car as the switch does not stop automatically and you have to keep your eye on the button and press it.  The trick is to slow the motor right down and to have the needle in the 'down' position.  I practised first by doing a lot of piecing on a traditional quilt I am making from leftover fabric.  I found it quite easy to do wavy rows of quilting with the No 20 foot and I then continued to use that for the applique.  However, when it came to the satin stitch, I did have to use the foot pedal because I was having to stop and turn the work so frequently.  It was all much easier than it would have been on the Artista, however.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

January Journal Quilt

At last I have finished two journal quilts.  It is only March of course and the first four have to be submitted by the end of April so in theory I have caught up.  My brain is already turning to ideas for the third.

The set theme this year is Colour.  The first four have to be in shades of red (hence the previous posting), the next four in shades of yellow and the final four in shades of blue.  Participants in the project often set themselves a theme and I know from past years that it does make it easier having a starting point.  I also realised that as this is something like the sixth year I have made journal quilts, I have tried out a vast number of techniques so I do not really wish to be led in that direction.  Instead I have decided to work to a theme of twentieth century artists and schools of painting.  Doing this can help to sharpen your observational skills, something I learnt years ago when I took a painting class where we sometimes worked 'in the style' of artists the teacher chose.

Thinking of red, quickly led me to Rothko, much of whose work uses large areas of red.  I knew that he likes his viewers to meditate on the paintings, a bit like stained glass in a medieval cathedral.  He often built up layers of thin paint and I began to think of how I could do something similar to this.  Then it occurred to me I could try pojagi, a technique which would be completely new for me.  I had dyed silk organza in reds and also had some indigo dyed silk organza.  I decided to work by hand.

Although I began with ideas of replicating the sort of shapes Rothko used, I soon decided that it would be better to concentrate on learning the stitching technique so the shapes became a bit random.  The stitching lines were also a bit wobbly so I was glad to find that this is quite acceptable.  The rules for journal quilts this year say they must be of at least two layers and be quilted so I needed something on which to 'mount' my piece of pojagi.  In the end I took a piece of linen that I had dyed, backed it with felt and then machine quilted it.  I then stitched the pojagi to the top so that it floats like a curtain.

I would like to do some more pojagi although I shall have to dye some more organza (or buy some).  I need to have a go at machine stitching it and I am interested in doing quilts with more than one layer.  Jack Brockette does amazing quilts of three layers with machine embroidery on the middle layer and free machine quilting of the three layers.  If you Google 'pojagi' there are lots of entries and at least one useful Youtube video of the techniques.  With the aid of my Contemporary Quilt friends who answered all my questions via the Yahoo group and these other sites I was amazed to find that I had learnt a new technique even though that was not my intention!  I have also realised that hand-stitched pojagi is a good 'travelling' project so I shall organise something I can take on holiday with me.  This will make a change from the Kanta style bags I have been making for the last year or so.