Improv and More

I have started working on an improvisational quilt.

Basically , it means I start sewing before I have any idea what I’m creating. For anyone who knows me, this way of doing things is right up my alley.  I just purchased this book, “An Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” by Sheri Lynn Wood.

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Naturally, I flipped through the book and then started without so much as reading a paragraph.  I promise I will go back and read. The book looks great.  I just was inspired by the word “improv” and began immediately.

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Here’s a sneak peak and to be honest , I don’t know how I will complete it. Just know that it’s a gift, so I don’t want to divulge the whole quilt til it’s been given away.  At that point, it’s done and there can be no regrets or turning back.  For now, it’s simply a work in progress.

In machine embroidery, I am preparing to teach a Software Inspirations class based on a tutorial from Sylvain Bergeron, Bernina educator.  In it, we learn to create textile fabric using embroidery…like argyle.

argyle1This is done completely in software, then stitched out as machine embroidery.  It can now be cut up and used as a handbag piece, or in a quilt, or basically used as any other fabric.  Would be fun to do a small series of these in different shades and then put them together as a quilt or table runner.  Although I’m sure this image looks black and white, the thread used in the squares is actually a mauve with white lines, on Moda’s black grunge fabric.

That being said, like many sewists, I spend a lot of time in the garden in the spring, head back into the sewing room when it rains or as the weather gets too warm and buggy to be hanging around outside.  I leave you with a few lovely pics from around the area this past couple of weeks.  The earth is stunning.

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Peony tree

Wild  phlox

Wild phlox

Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

Late February

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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Just another Blizzard/Snowstorm/Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday after work, at about 5:30 PM,  I stopped at the local Meijer.

You would have thought that none of us had ever eaten before or would ever eat again.  The shelves were cleared of chips and salsa, although I found some on an end cap.  The stockers were angry and the check out clerks were exhausted.  The gal at the counter told me the store had been packed all day.

I couldn’t find any potatoes. They were gone.  Yes, all the potatoes were gone.

The Canadian bacon I usually purchase had been replaced by rows and rows of real bacon and Velveeta. And ribs. Sour cream shelves were empty. And I couldn’t even find my son’s yogurt.

The combination of Super Bowl Sunday and a pending snowstorm….excuse me…. BLIZZARD…were seriously almost causing the end of civilization.

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Today, the snow IS falling, thank goodness.  The plows in the neighborhood have been few and far between. I heard one last night at 3 am, then again once during the day today, and that’s pretty much it.

Of course, I have been sewing.

I used a new pattern and assembled a couple of cute table runners for Valentine’s Day.  My goal is to get them to the point where I could spend the Super Bowl doing hand work by putting on the binding.

The pattern is called Rock Candy from Jaybird Quilts and the accompanying ruler is called a Sidekick.  This is truly a simple pattern to do using the ruler, and a fun shape for a table.

jaybird quiltsI did manage to get the binding on, and now I’m ready to sit and watch the game.

jaybird quilts 2The fabric is adorable, called Kiss Kiss from moda.

So get out your chips and dip, salsa and sour cream, your chocolates and cheeses and crackers and cookies. Turn on your big screen, enjoy the screaming crowds and the silly, raunchy, depressing, goofy, and tear-jerking commercials and half-time show.

As for me, at 8 pm I switch to Downton Abbey. Pass me the stress-reducing herbal tea.

 

 

Slow But Steady…Maybe Just Slow

Finally, between all the end-of-summer commotion and back to school and bus rides and new schedules and coordination, I found a few moments to sew.

I wanted to get back to the Polka Dot Tree project, which has been sitting on my machine for, I don’t know, months now.

I continued outlining the branches, using the triple blanket stitch. This is such a common stitch but is a little trickier to use than a simple blanket stitch.  However, for my purposes, it stands out on the tree and branches so much better and has the look of hand stitching.

bernina triple blanket stitchThroughout the project, I had the dual feed engaged and used a number 20 foot so that I could see exactly where I was going.

polkadot tree2With the branches done, it looks a little more like a Halloween project than I was hoping.

However, after positioning some of the leaves, I got a better feel for the direction this project is headed. I guess that’s the beauty of designing and creating my own projects.

I have no idea how something is going to turn out til after it’s done.

polkadot tree1With the polka dot leaves laid out, I am liking the patchwork/scrappy thing that’s happening.  I am planning (at least at this point) to do some hand embroidery and hand stitching on the leaves, adding in some wools for dimension.  You can just get a hint of some of the fabulous wools in the upper left-hand corner of the shot.

I won’t be able to start quilting til after all of that is complete.

Since the fabric on this quilt came from 60 different people around the world in a polka dot fabric exchange, the idea of being united is important to me. I am toying with the concept of adding a machine embroidery quote along the bottom. We’ll see. Ideas are easy. Implementation takes a little time.

Loyal Hearts – Civil War Quilters of Illinois

I don’t have much in common with my 12-year-old son any more.  I don’t write Minecraft apps and he doesn’t embroider. My idea of fun is strolling through a lovely garden and his is slipping and sliding feet first down a water slide.

That’s OK.  We venture into each others’ worlds often enough, and luckily we both love the art of conversation.  Today we found a precious piece of common ground.  He is a civil war aficionado and I am a quilter.  And Illinois State Museum in Lockport is bringing both of these interests together in a stunning display until Oct. 17.

Please make the time to go visit.  You won’t regret seeing these lovely pieces of history in person and reading the stories.

Just a few samples:

whiteonwhiteThis white on white embroidery whole cloth piece is just stunning.  Ask the docent to run the light over it or behind it to get the full effect.  Something that had me just mesmerized was the way the cloth does not pucker from all the stitches.  I’m still not sure why.  The thread is heavy and the stitching is dense and  very elaborate.  A mystery that went to the grave with this woman.

flag1This one was probably done 1912-1915.  Hence the 48 stars.  The women who assembled this would have been commemorating the local soldiers, and this likely was a raffle piece.

 

 

flag2Detailed hand embroidery for every name on the quilt.

 

 

 

 

wool1The young lady who created this quilt was from Aurora IL in Kane County.  Her husband went off to the war and she stayed home with family and created this masterpiece.

 

 

 

wool2It is speculated that she had ties to the general store and had access to precious fabric.  Cotton was not easily obtained so she used wool.

 

 

 

logcabin1My favorite piece, which is obviously one of the stars of the show is this Log Cabin quilt.  The story is that the woman who made this quilt had sons in both the Confederate and Union Armies.  Pieces of uniforms from both sides are embedded in the quilt.

 

 

logcabin2I’m not sure why, but it never occurred to me that Illinois could lean both toward the North and toward the South.  Chicago, of course was Yankee territory, but southern Illinois, down near the Kentucky border, was very much considered the south. Precisely what makes this quilt so very “Illinois” and so very poignant.

 

socksFinally, I had to include this gem.  Taken from a note sent with a pair of socks, it is a civil-war era form of social media. Match.com-style.  We gals haven’t changed so very much over the years, now, have we?

 

Fresh Projects and Fresh Strawberries

software sampler2This is a project I worked on at work and at home for the June Bernina Software Sampler, which I teach.  The project involved learning techniques for machine embroidery applique.  The bud of the flower is part of the tutorial, but I went ahead and incorporated other elements as well, adding the stems, leaves etc. to create a simple but “summery” table runner. Once again, I was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest.

No pattern available, but for those of you with embroidery machines and Bernina Embroidery Software 7, it’s a piece of cake….well, once you work out the dimensions.  The flower panels are 8 x 8 inches finished, and everything else falls into place after that.

(How many pairs of glasses does one sewist need? Hint: At one point I used them both.)

strawberriesOne of my favorite times of the year is when the strawberries are harvested at the local farm. Here’s a shout out to friends at Norton Farm.  They are an important part of our summer!  We’ll be waiting for the tomatoes, broccoli and finally the fabulous corn! I’m growing a few tomatoes and cukes out back, but the weather has been a little cool, so they are taking their time developing.

Here’s to the sweetness of summer!  May we always appreciate the bounty!

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Warble Me Now, for Joy of Lilac Time

lilacs1by Walt Whitman

WARBLE me now, for joy of Lilac-time,
Sort me, O tongue and lips, for Nature’s sake, and sweet life’s sake,
Souvenirs of earliest summer—birds’ eggs, and the first berries;
Gather the welcome signs (as children, with pebbles, or stringing shells);
Put in April and May—the hylas croaking in the ponds—the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird, and darting swallow—nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden
wings,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings,
Shimmer of waters, with fish in them—the cerulean above;
All that is jocund and sparkling—the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days, and the sugar-making;
The robin, where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest of his mate;
The melted snow of March—the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts;
—For spring-time is here! is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer—let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape—to sail forth, as in a ship!
To glide with thee, O Soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters!
—Gathering these hints, these preludes—the blue sky, the grass, the morning
drops of dew;
(With additional songs—every spring will I now strike up additional songs,
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of Death as well as Life;)
The lilac-scent, the bushes, and the dark-green, heart-shaped leaves,
Wood violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To tally, drench’d with them, tested by them,
Cities and artificial life, and all their sights and scenes,
My mind henceforth, and all its meditations—my recitatives,
My land, my age, my race, for once to serve, in songs,
(Sprouts, tokens ever of death indeed the same as life,)
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of Lilac-time.

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