Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Challenge Quilt, in Process....

As I typed yesterday, I realized that I hadn't done a very good job, at all, of showing the city as a scar against the rain forest parts.  I knew I needed to fix the SP portion of the quilt, but as I napped in the afternoon I realized I also needed to figure out how to make the city feel more scarrish, like it was slicing through the rain forest (which, in fact, it is). I went to bed with that on my mind, and woke up with an idea.

I love those aha! moments like that, and got up energized and ready to play! First up, I ripped out the SP. I knew that one did not work, at all. When I'd made it, I loved it. But as I played with what building it would "pop" against, I forgot about where it landed; middle of the street just wouldn't work. Oops. And I tried working from memory and got the oh so striking angles all wrong. Double oops.  So, seam ripper to the rescue; goodbye, blocky SP bits.

ripping out
and ripping

goodbye, S!
goodbye, P! Hello, nice blank canvas!

After that was done, I pulled out my greens and set to work. I decided  I couldn't get the new SP into the right place until I had the extra hills in place, so I started with this.  I knew I didn't want a choppy look, so I cut several random bits into curvy edged shapes, reminiscent of hills, then I auditioned different pieces in different areas on either side of the cityscape.

the right side went together easily
On the right hand side, I used the same greens as the  hill below, to really emphasize that this was the same area, just cut in half by the city. I left the top & bottom edges straight, bumping right against the street or building, just to extra emphasize that slashing, cutting effect. The hill itself was all one piece, cut in half, and the top half placed above/behind the city, the bottom left below/in front of, and scooted over a bit. I think this side, especially, gives the scar effect I was after.

The left side was harder; which fabrics, in which place....
option a

option b
option c

For this side, I played around with fronts, backs, sideways....lots of flipping and turning before choosing. Once I was happy with the color, scale & placement, I glued down the pieces using a washable glue stick and then took them over and raw-edge machine appliqued them in place. I put hills in front of the left side of the city and a hill that appears cut in half on the right side; yes, this makes it look like the city is the scar that it is.

sewn -- yes, now the city feels like it cuts through the rain forest instead of sits atop it
much better!

Now I could get to the SP. I went back to the photo and drew the shapes of the S and the P onto a piece of batting that was around the size I wanted. I cut those out and used the batting templates to audition for placement. Where should these go???

far left

far right?

Once I understood where they were meant to be, I pulled some little charm squares to audition as fabric options. I knew I wanted gray, or possibly off-white. Not black, not stark white, as that would be too lost against the black & white street & buildings.  

placement chosen, auditioning fabric options
I thought about a splash of color, but I'm still contemplating adding flowers to the rain forest, and part of what I love about the inspiration photo is the very starkness and sterile feel of it; I felt that red would mitigate that.

I turned the zigzag print this way and that, and when I saw the vertical zigzag I knew that was the way to go. Then I decided that to really give this little touch some oomph, I would do a faux trapunto; I carefully picked up one letter, traced it onto the back of the fabric, returned the letter to its proper position next to the other, traced the 2nd one, returned it, cut out the fabric letters and then glued the fabric letter onto the batting template.  I did this one at a time, leaving the other in place so I could get the placement just how I wanted; the way the angles of the S and the P meet is a pivotal part of the design (in the original statue) and what I most wanted to capture, so their placement in relation to each other is almost more important than their placement along the road of the quilt.

traced and cut

glued to the batting

placement just so, getting ready to glue...
Once each template had the fabric glued on, I then glued each whole letter to the background, ready to sew. I was grateful for my "extra up" lever thing that raises my presser foot even higher, so that I could get the quilt under without knocking the letter out of place. Then I set the stitch to a tight zigzag; I've done zigzag (tight, to catch all the raw edges) around all the "city" elements and raw edge/straight stitch on all the natural elements. I used a stitch length of almost 0 and a width of 3 for this, and machine appliqued the letters to the background; I've also been using my walking foot for all of this.  There! Much better!

all glued down, ready to sew

zigzag stitched
very pleased with how the fabric lines pop and the angles show up.
Also, see the little slash of street & flowers, heading from city to beach? love that!

I added one last little touch for now, a narrow slash of road angling down from the city to the beach, and along the road, narrow slashes of flowers. I am uncertain how much more flower/color I'll add to the rain forest; in reality, the drive from the city to the beach (which does wind through hilly/mountainous rain forest) is full of color. Purples, pinks, reds, yellows, whites....there are flowers everywhere. Down on the roadside, up in the trees, just everywhere. But. This quilt is about the city, so I'm not sure how many flowers to put. Enough that the absence of same makes sense in the cityscape, but I've not yet decided what that looks like. For now, I'm leaving the rain forest part alone and waiting for it to speak to me and tell me what else it wants or needs.

letting it speak to me for now....
This quilt is my attempt to Play Along with the 15 Minutes Play Architecture Challenge; see the other participants, inspiration, process, etc. over at the 15 Minutes Play blog. Deadline is not until July 6, so join in!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

15 Mins Architecture Challenge: Begun....

Victoria Findlay Wolfe, fast becoming my favorite quilter/quilt blogger, runs a separate website from her regular blog, where she posts challenges and inspiration and invites readers to play along. I am so glad I  popped over there in time to get in on this challenge! So fun! Go check it out -- 15 Minutes Play.

I just received her book as a mother's day gift, and I am loving the freedom of playing with fabric in this reinventy sort of way, taking scraps and turning them into something lovely. Nice! It's been a very good creative outlet for me in between big projects dictated by my young sons.

The challenge is to find an inspiration photo, something architectural, and then turn it into a quilt (24" x 30", oriented either direction). 

I scrolled through folders and folders of photos, only to realize one thing: I am way more inspired by nature than by architecture. And a second thing: even using scraps, I can't bear to make something that won't mean something to me when done.

In the end, I chose this photo, using the term inspiration to here mean "starting off point", and ran with an idea that somewhat related.

blurry, because we were driving
'tis the angles of the SP that I love so much, and the city against nature juxtaposition
This is a sign/statue along the highway as you enter Sao Paulo city, and it has always intrigued me. The angles are just eye catching, and this street-side statue is a perfect symbol to me of all that is Sao Paulo -- funky, gritty, edgy, stark, sterile, creative.....yes, all of that at the same time.

That led me to thoughts about the city itself, cut into an area that used to be rain forest. And then a photo from a different folder, of a scar left behind after a mudslide, merged in my mind with this photo.....what if, instead of a scar of dirt and mud cutting into a hastily built area of dwellings, what if the city were the scar?

I first built the water/ocean right onto the batting, moving dark to light, edge to edge, to loosely represent the coast. Then I built a strip of green hills/mountains, the swath of rain forest that remains, cutting off the city from the Atlantic coast.  I left the top edge of the green loose until I built the city & road, then tucked those behind, folded the green up & over, and sewed it in place with a straight stitch, leaving the raw edge on purpose so as to have a more organic feel.

building the green

Atlantic Rain Forest -- the coast 

with the city & street tucked in, and sky behind

Still quite a bit of tweaking to go; I see already that I didn't get the SP quite right, in shape or placement, so will take that off and go again, as well as add details to the rain forest and the buildings, possibly bringing the forest in higher as well......luckily the deadline isn't until July! Plenty of time to work on this between bigger projects.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Finished! A collaboration, mother & son....

Update February 2016: I've recently discovered another blogger loved this quilt so much that she copied it, and in fact added some elements as well. I should note she has since gone back and given me credit for the quilt (thank you!), but I'd also like to point out that this is only the 4th quilt I ever made, and only the 1st one ever done by machine. I hope you'll forgive any imperfections in my quilt, and enjoy seeing The Original Legend of Zelda Quilt, actually designed by my then 12 year old son who specified which elements to include and where to place them (shown below with his quilt). Thank you!

Well, I did it! The quilt is quilted, bound, washed, dried and my son snuggled under it last night on the first really extra cold night of the year. Perfect timing!

snuggling in bed
I asked him for name suggestions, and without hesitation he said, "Legend of Zelda's Cat" so that will be the name. I need to message my good friend at Embroidery by Shawna and get her to whip up the label. She has done the labels for all my other finished quilts so far, and I absolutely love the work she does! Simple, yet very high quality, and exactly what I order!  Or, in the case of a typo/spelling error, she'll correct that for you! :)
all wrapped up

Because I am a fast and somewhat careless baster, the quilt came out a little saggy-baggy. Because it's for the bed, not a show, I don't care too much. I do plan to buy spray baste next time we're in the US, as I cannot stand the chore. No matter how well I smooth out the back, tape it to the floor, smooth out the batting, tape it to the floor, and pin, pin, pin the layers together, it still gets loosey-goosey when I start quilting. Or wrinkled and folded on the back. Probably it's the pins, too; I only own straight pins, and not very many, so......I definitely skimp on the basting step.

the loosey goosey, saggy baggy front
one son is not as tall as the other, so one side is lower ;)
I used a batting with scrim on the back, and did "stitch in the ditch" quilting on the front, going over every diagonal seam, both directions, as well as a zig zag stitch following the light green border (which wasn't caught much in the diagonals, whereas the inner pieced borders were).

The quilting adds texture to the back without actually showing up and being a distraction, which is lucky. The green flannel helped to hide the stitches, so that was good; flannel was a lot stretchier to work with than I imagined, but makes for an extra snuggly quilt, so that's nice.

the texture enhanced back (also saggy baggy...)
and our silly mutt looking on
Now that this one is done, it's on to the  next one. I short intermission while I attempt a "15 minutes of play" architectural challenge (assuming my chosen photo is architectural enough....more on that later) and then it'll be right on to my youngest son's quilt, a Super Mario themed quilt designed according to his suggestions. I hope to have his done (twin sized, not full!) before it stops being cold......

Monday, May 20, 2013

Legend of Kitty? Zelda Cat? This quilt needs a name.....

Well, the front is done. The back is done. The quilt is laid out in the floor, ready to be basted and quilted. Whew! What a chore this quilt has been!

The front was not too difficult, until I did the colored gem stones (called Rupees) on the sides; I made them the wrong size at first, because I didn't follow directions. Oops. No problem, I recut the fabric, fixed 'em up, and used the mistakes to make small ones to go across the top as a little extra touch. Cuteness!
wrong-sized rupee pieces on the left, right-sized rupee pieces on the right

the finished front
the side borders are the right-sized rupees;
the top border is a mix of colored rectangles and the wrong-sized rupees
Then I had to hand draw and machine applique this sword. Apparently it's a major part of the game, is called the Master Sword, and has many variations depending on which particular Legend of Zelda game you are playing. My son wanted the version from Twilight Princess (for Wii), so we searched images and I drew it to the best of my ability and then cut and sewed and here it is. The Artist, age 12, is happy, so I'm happy.

close-up of the detail on the hilt/handle of the sword
I outlined the sword/appliqued by using a tight zig-zag stitch
then I stitched a straight stitch to mark all the detail lines of the handle
also shows a close-up of the top border - you can just see the rectangles/elongated diamonds

The back is also made to his specifications, but I don't think I'll do a 2-sided quilt again any time soon. I'm seriously fretting over thread color and such. I really only have one color thread available in the right amount to quilt a whole quilt, and it's gray; I'm not excited about the quilting lines showing up all over the back of the quilt, since the back is really a front, just put on the back. But, what can I do??? I don't know, so gray it is. I think the gray will blend enough into the cat portion that it hopefully won't be distracting. We shall see.

the back, angled body
I outlined the entire cat in a tight zig-zag stitch to give it a little more definition
the frame is made of assorted cat print fabrics
The back is a cat; I free/improv pieced the cat, partly out of necessity -- I didn't have a single piece of orange big enough to get the width I needed for that cat. The cat had to be big enough to make the flannel last for the whole quilt, because between designing the quilt & buying the fabric and then starting the quilt, my husband decided I should make the quilt for a full sized bed (which our son hopes to get upon our return to the US) vs. a twin sized bed (which he has right now). So everything had to stretch without buying more fabric, as I'd spent way too much as it was.

So, the cat was improv pieced, mostly using the techniques that Victoria Findlay Wolfe talks about in her blog & in her book "15 Minutes of Play."  Fun times, that! Since it was for the back, I really let myself be free and have fun, and I think the result is good.

The cat had started off squared up, we didn't like it, I peeked at the instructions and saw, oops, it was supposed to angle down, so I appliqued flannel over the body and WOW! what a difference that made! Woot! So then I just kept going with the face and the ears and the whole thing and had so much fun. It tossed all the measurements out the window as far as my EQ7 instructions, because nothing ended up "the right size" BUT wonderfully it did end up that I had exactly the amount of flannel needed to make it the same size as the front of the quilt. Whew! Thank goodness for that!
the cat, before I angled the body

So, now it's lying in the floor waiting for me to go baste the layers together and get quilting, but while I do that, a question for you --- what on earth can I name this quilt??? I like to put labels on with official quilt names, and somehow "Legend of Zelda Quilt" doesn't seem totally appropriate given that it's also a cat quilt. So....ideas??? Would love your comments/feedback!

If it helps, the front is modeled after my son's favorite video game; the back is a cat from one of his favorite book series, and also cats are his favorite animal as well. So -- name this quilt!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

PLAYing around with the back of the Legend of Zelda quilt....

The front of the Legend of Zelda quilt is done; pics coming soon, but my son also wanted a pieced back --- specifically, a cat.

No problem. I have EQ7 so I chose a simple cat block and made a medallion quilt design, a simple strip border to frame the block, and then the rest is the green backing flannel. I finished the front of the quilt last weekend, and got ready to cut orange fabric for the giant cat.

Except, the cutting directions were all bigger than the pieces of fabric I had. Yikes. What to do???

Well, luckily I've been reading the blog of Virginia Findlay Wolfe, author of "15 Minutes of PLAY," a lovely book all about improv piecing and creating what she calls "made fabric" from scraps and such.

The point of her actual book (which I received in e-format as a Mother's Day gift! yay!!) is to be creative, let the fabric tell you what it wants to be, etc. Don't cut and piece with a goal or end result in mind. -ahem-  Well, I had to break the rules and instead followed two of the main principles she mentions --- Use what you have, make what you need.

all the strips
Inspired by her book and blog, I cut all the orange fabrics into wonky strips. Then I set about sewing them back together into rectangles more or less the right size. My original plan was to then cut the precise pieces that I needed, some of which involved printing templates to get oh-so-precise triangles and all. -ahem- again. No thank  you.

separated into dark orange and light orange (more or less...)
Instead, I sewed and sewed and sewed until I had three gigantic rectangles and a smaller one. Body, body, body, head. Then I sewed two sort of triangley shaped bits for ears, and a long narrow-ish bit for the tail. Then I brought over widths of the green flannel and cut and sewed and cut and sewed some more until I had a head strip, an ears strip and a tail strip, and then I put it all together and wound up with this somewhat wonky, but still fairly adorable, improv pieced quilt cat.

one very wonky, very improv, stripey strippy orange cat
On to the border/frame and then the rest of the back, and maybe, just maybe, by this time tomorrow I'll have a finished quilt, front and back, to show off. Maybe. Wish me luck!