Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sands of Time: Mini Portrait Quilts

My most recent project was inspired by the HMQS theme for this year, "It's Magic! Memorable Moments."  I really wanted to enter a quilt into this's an unjuried show, but is a judged show, so every quilt entered (so long as it follows the rules) is accepted, and then judged, which means you get valuable feedback for your work.

I thought. I pondered. I considered. I let the idea of "memorable moments" rattle and roll around in my head, until an idea began to take shape. I let it sit and grow, steadily working on other projects in the meantime. I worked on my son's graduation quilt, I did the baby quilt commission, I was even thinking about this back when I was doing a family tree memory quilt for my aunt. And as I worked on these other things, all the time the idea was forging itself into a mini quilt triptych that I couldn't leave undone.

Memorable moments. First steps. First words. First time at the beach. Beach trips. Sandcastles. Each of my boys, on the beach, building sandcastles. Each of my boys, at around age 10, on the beach. Alone. With his brothers. Layers and layers, trip after trip after trip, a little boy at age three....age five...age the beach. Alone. With his little brother. With his big brother. With both brothers. Oldest. Youngest. Middle. All the images, all the beach trips over all the years......three mini portraits. The idea became an image which became a quilt. Three mini quilts, part of one triptych that tells one story.

I began by piecing the backgrounds, using improvisational curved piecing to create a gentle sepia toned landscape, sand and sky, for the first two sections and realistic colors for the third panel. The first two symbolize the past, while the final panel symbolizes present day. Where the sand meets the sky I used a straight line, reflective of the horizon line, to give definition since the first two panels don't have the color separation to identify which is which.

I then sorted photos and created a photo collage of each boy. My first thought was to use a photo as the background, and do the applique over it in translucent fabrics. I quickly realized that would be too distracting, so instead chose one photo to create in applique, and keep the frame of photos layered around the edges.

I built the applique pieces by printing the desired photo on cardstock and cutting out the image, then tracing around it on fabric. I began with the full outline of the boy, then cut away one section at a time to define the arms, legs, feet, head, hair, clothing, etc. I then used those same pieces to cut out the hair & clothing and applique those onto the outline of the boy before finally appliqueing the boy onto the background.

Because the final piece is only 8"x10", the image section is only printed at a 5x7 size, and thus the boy in each is only perhaps 5" tall at best. Cutting the applique pieces was by far the most painstaking portion of each panel, though the actual applique process was not bad at all -- I used a fabric glue stick to glue the pieces in place, and then did simple raw edge machine applique, with  my walking foot, using a gold Sulky thread.

Finally, I cut the photos for the framing portion. I cut apart the collages and tweaked the placement so that they were far enough in from the edge that they wouldn't be lost in the actual frame, and yet far enough apart as to give the right effect to the center applique. I wanted to create the idea of the applique portrait being a larger photo in a pile of small photos....a single moment, captured, reflected on, viewed through the lens of time.

The first panel includes only photos of my oldest son, the second has my second son with my first son, and the final has all three boys. I chose not to include photos of my middle son with my youngest son, in the middle frame, as I wanted to tell the story of one boy growing older, and I didn't want to introduce the third son until his panel. The final panel, though, does include photos of my youngest son by himself, with just my middle son with him, and with all three boys together, because in that panel I did want to show the dual roles of my middle son as both an older brother and a younger brother; on his panel, I wanted the focus on him as the younger brother.

In the end, I realized I'd made this for me, not for the show after all. I wanted it framed, not bound, for one. Then, I wanted it as three pieces, and the rules of the show state that a triptych must represent one final cohesive quilt. While I think it represents one cohesive idea, I don't think it truly represents a single cohesive quilt in the way the show directors mean. And, the pieces are too small to submit individually. Which is all quite fine with me, because any feedback would, for this particular quilt, be irrelevant to me. The idea, the feel of it, the emotion of it....I think I've captured those things exactly as I intended. The quilting of it could be improved, but I wanted simplicity for this and so didn't try and dress it up with extra quilting. It is, for me, perfect, and so the perfect place for it is here, at home, where it belongs.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Re Introducing Myself, and What I've Been Up To....

Hi! If you've just found me, welcome! It's been a very long while since I've blogged here or anywhere, and I am determined to make quilt blogging a part of my day-to-day life again. I'm busier than ever, and sewing more than ever, and itching to talk about it somewhere....!

My last post was nearly a year ago, which is scary and sad. I've done a lot since then! The projects mentioned in that last post are further along (some still in the UFO stage, unfortunately....), other projects were started and finished in between then and now, and still more are waiting in the wings to be finished, or even started.

I'll likely go back and fill in with posts, back-dated to when they were appropriate, but for now....well, Now.

I've just had my very first Commission, my very first quilt done for a customer, for pay. Exciting and nerve-wracking!  I've done one other quilt that was requested by someone outside my immediate family, and was given a lovely gift for doing so, but it was not strictly for pay. This one was different, and a friend messaged me to ask "Do you make baby quilts?"

The finished quilt, per the customer's design

Well, of course I make baby quilts. Would I sell one......? Oye. Nerve-wracking. So many thoughts -- I've researched how to properly price my quilts, so that I'm not giving away my time and effort, so I had that more or less figured out. Would my friend run in horror at the price? Would my quilting be worth that price?? Did I want the stress of living up to "for pay" standards??

top corner detail
I'm not a precision piecer or quilter. My ideas and thoughts and attempts often outpace my skills. On quilts I make for myself, to be thrown on a couch and sat on, crumpled up, spilled on, left on the floor for the dog to sleep on.....quilts I make to be used, worn, loved.....imperfections do not matter as long as the quilt holds together in the wash.

bottom corner detail, hearts in the border corner

On gifts, likewise made to be used, I do try harder to be more precise, but still I know that it's a gift, and no one is going to say "oh, the horrors! this line is not 100% straight!!"

outline quilting around the butterflies

But for charge someone what my time is worth, there is pressure there, to deliver a product that reflects a worthiness of such a price tag. Gulp. Am I really ready for that?

close up of border heart detail
free motion quilting, no marking, domestic machine

I decided, yes. I could do it. I stressed and sweated and loved every minute of it, until time to deliver the finished quilt, when I mostly just stressed and sweated. Would she like it? Would every tiny imperfection leap out at her, as they do to me? Would she recoil in horror, appalled that I charged her *that*, for *this*?!
baby's last initial (first name is a secret), fused applique with blanket stitch
outline quilting around the C
free motion (unmarked) hearts in the corners

She didn't. I knew she wouldn't, though my mind tried to doubt. Relief, and then joy....pure, excited, amazed, joy. She loved it! I just sold my first quilt!!!! For a real, honest, not giving it away price!!!

It was a fun detour from my current big project, a graduation quilt for my oldest son. Then I did a mini wall-hanging triptych this weekend, just for me. Today is my busiest "out of the house" day, and tomorrow.....back to the graduation quilt. With only 5 weeks until graduation, and currently the quilt is just a stack of blocks yet to be assembled into rows, and pieced borders not even cut yet.....gulp. Lots to do. Starting tomorrow.

Today, basking in the still glowing glory of selling my first quilt.