Congruence, Deconstructed

Congruence Owl quilt front 2

Our reveal for the fourth challenge quilt in our art group, Four-in-Art Quilters, was yesterday and today I’ll tell you how it came together.

I first started by looking a what seemed like billions of photos of owls.  I did a lot of this through Flickr, where I found this photo:

OWL ese

I wrote to Matt Smith, the person who posted it, and asked permission to use this photo and he gave it to me.  And then I sat on it for a couple of months, not knowing how to approach this.  Did I want to paper-piece it?  Not really.  Embroider it?  Pixelate it into little squares?  None seemed satisfying.  And then it was in the background reading that it came to me that I would fracture it, play with it a little and see where that went.

OWL ps desktop

I digitally chopped the owl picture into fourths and then chopped into fourths again, making sixteen parts.  And then I began to play with filters, one of the least used, but really fun parts of Photoshop.  I applied at least one, and sometimes multiple filters to each segment, approximating the sizes so I could get this bird back together again in the end.  You can see the mock-up on the lower right.  That was me, trying to reassure myself.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 1

Then I printed it off on paper, cut it apart, and still tried to reassure myself. I grabbed a previous art quilt off the wall (I knew it was 12″ square) to use as a template.  It seemed okay. But how to get it to fabric?  I usually iron freezer paper to the back of a piece of fabric, tape that to a piece of paper like I did in English Elizabeth, then run it through my Epson color printer. But I’d read in a blog about someone who simply ironed the fabric and freezer paper together, making sure it was a standard paper size, and then ran it through the printer.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 2

Don’t you love the ink smudges?  The next time, I made sure the freezer paper was really well-adhered to the fabric, then set the printings for thick matte paper on high quality and ran it through again, using a long thin tool to assist it through the last phases and so the fabric wouldn’t touch anything.  The closest thing I could grab was a nail file — but it worked.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 4

I peeled off the freezer paper carefully and cut apart my sixteen squares of Mr. Owl.

Congruence Owl quilt Layering up the backing

Layering the background — Kona Ash — with the backing and batting.  Kona Ash?  Light taupey gray?  Cindy of Live a Colorful Life is probably laughing her head off now because she knows how much I hate gray.  Really, I do.  In so many modern quilts it acts as a big hole in the composition, especially if it’s a medium gray.  I think if a quilter has to go gray in a quilt (and I’m not talking about those low-volume quilt compositions where it is intentional and where it works) they ought to go charcoal.  Or slate.  Ash is what I had on hand, as I don’t generally keep gray around (I bought it for a bee block I had to do).  But it worked for this as the picture, except for the owl’s eyes, is all in taupes and grays.  Yeah, low-volume.

Congruence Owl quilt construction 3

Using the paper mock-up as a guide, I start layering the cloth images onto the backing.

Congruence Owl quilt 2 layout

Congruence Owl quilt 1 layout

Moving things around, trimming down the pieces so some aren’t square, trying for balance.  Trying for that little artist’s lightbulb to go off in my head.  I got about a night-light’s worth of illumination, but from my writing in grad school, I knew that showing up wouldn’t get you anywhere–you have to keep trying.  To fully put this concept into action,  I went to dinner, then let it sit for a week while I went to our quilt retreat.

Congruence Owl 1

Then one morning it was simply time to tackle it again.  I couldn’t decide between satin-stitching a thicker line (close zig-zagging) or straight-stitching a narrow line of thread around each piece.  Narrow won.  I trimmed it up to 12 inches and then thought I’d like to try a faced binding (tutorial on how to do a faced binding coming in a couple of days).

Congruence Owl 2

I cut strips to match the backing, sewed them on.

Congruence Owl 3

When I ironed them to the back on a couple of sides, it became apparent that I needed that “frame” of the binding for this particular quilt.  Rip off the binding.

Congruence Owl quilt tiling

I kind of liked the way the binding corralled those tiled pieces.

Congruence Owl quilt label

I made the label, sewed it on, then went outside to photograph it.  I made an interesting discovery.

Congruence Owl quilt 5 textures

This lower section of the feathered wing imitated the gnarly bark of my silk oak tree in my backyard.  Maybe because I’d dampened the literal image of feathers with Photoshop filters?  I don’t know, but I liked the effect.

Congruence Owl quilt front tilted

So, all the incongruent small pieces — the images, the tiling, the layering, the stitching — all merged into a lovely congruence of an owl, just like the metaphoric meanings discussed yesterday.  All combine into that creature that captures our imagination while mystifying us as well.

And now I leave you with a poem by Mary Oliver, that I think captures this idea:

“Praise,” by Mary Oliver

Knee-deep
in the ferns
springing up
at the edge of the whistling swamp,

I watch the owl
with its satisfied,
heart-shaped face
as it flies over the water–

back and forth–
as it flutters down
like a hellish moth
wherever the reeds twitch–

whenever, in the muddy cover,
some little life sighs
before it slides into moonlight
and becomes a shadow.

In the distance,
awful and infallible,
the old swamp belches.
Of course

It stabs my heart
whenever something cries out
like a teardrop.
But isn’t it wonderful,

What is happening
in the branches of the pines:
the owl’s young,
dressed in snowflakes,

are starting to fatten–
they beat their muscular wings,
they dream of flying
for another million years

over the water,
over the ferns,
over the world’s roughage
as it bleeds and deepens.

from House of Light, 1990

Village Faire

Village Faire Top

Village Faire, quilt #117 on my 200 Quilts List

A part of the Year of Schnibbles, hosted by Sherri and Sinta.

This quilt reminded me of summer days, of green lawns that you can lay down in and drift off, and of course, pinwheels that spin with the flick of a finger, or by holding them overhead while running.  I was also reminded of local faires and immediately thought of Babe, the Gallant Pig, and Mr. and Mrs. Hoggett, cotton candy, ferris wheels.

Little Machine Sewing

I started it on the small machine, as the big machine was set up downstairs, quilting Kaleidoscope.

DulcineaFrontCoverSMHere’s the original.  You can see I changed up the border.

Village Faire Top detail

Given the bold prints of my fabrics, I felt the border was too busy for what I had going on in the center, and as we are given license to modify and create and have fun with Carrie Nelson’s patterns, I indulged and put a series of bars along the edges, with pinwheels for cornerstones.  I have a fabrics from the Comma collection from Moda and from Thomas Knauer’s Asbury collection, which has summer-time things like bumper cars and soft-serve ice cream cones.

Village Faire Back2

And on the back?  Yep–a tea towel.  This one is from Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales region of England.  We went on vacation there a few years back and as we are enamoured of Wallace and Grommit, we knew we had to head over to Hawes and sample some Wensleydale cheese.  (Even though it was raining.  And rained all day, which explains why England is so green.)

YorkshireDales1

Swinithwaite1

A scene or two from Yorkshire.  I can now get this Wensleydale cheese in Costco, during the holidays.  Will wonders never cease.

Village Faire on fence

Village Faire Label

This measures a little larger than the other two Schnibbles designs, coming in at 34″ square.  I think this design would morph perfectly into a baby quilt, or a quilt for a child, by adding another row of the pinwheels.

Village Faire in guest bedroom

After taking the outside photos, I gimped upstairs (yes, I can walk around now, but not much, and have that lovely blue boot on my foot) and threw the quilt on the guest bedroom bed.  I really like these bold colors.  Given that we are heading into a weekend of 100+ degree heat, I declare that summer has arrived!

This summer may you find a Village Faire to attend, and a pinwheel to spin with a quick puff of breath.

windmill_template

Spoolin’ Around

SpoolinAroundTop

This is my latest Schnibbles quilt: Spoolin’ Around.  Sherri, Sinta and I assume, Carrie, pick the Schnibbles pattern we are going to use, but then we all go to town putting it together in our own inimatable way.

GentleArtSchnibbles

I changed up the borders a little, because I wanted mine to all line up a little more, creating a different corner look. Read *here* about my fabrics, including using some sheets from the Porthault design vault.

Spoolin Around1

Spoolin’ Around, au natural

Spoolin Aroundback

I feel like I’m also creating a Tea Towel series, but really I’m not trying to.  It’s just that this towel from Padua, Italy was blue and white and the top just called out for this to be used here.  St. Anthony is a Big Deal in that town, as you can tell by his likeness, his basilica, his . . . We went to Padua to see the  Scrovegni Chapel.  Getting this tea towel was a side benefit.

Spoolin Aroundbackdetail

Spoolin Arounddetail

I quilted this during the last week of class, while listening to Barbara Demick’s novel, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, and I quilted and quilted.  Not perfectly, but that’s also the beauty of making these small quilts–nothing’s so terribly precious about them.  They’re fun, not a chore.  And I aim to keep it that way, just enjoying the process.

Spoolin Arounddetail2

I struggled with the border choices: green soft plaid, or yellow spheres, or red/white dots?  Not sure I’m entirely happy about this, but I did want something that wasn’t so serious.

Spoolin Aroundsleeve

I split the sleeve on the back, because I didn’t want to cover up the words.

Spoolin Around Quilt Label

And I kept their label: Puro Cotone, because I liked it.  I used bits and pieces of the border that was cut off from the top of the towel around my label.  I have to say it’s a bit wild looking, but again–I was having fun, and that’s not a bad thing when you are  quilter.  And that’s my June 1st deadline Schnibble, finished a bit early!

This is #114 on my 200 Quilts list.

Quilt Label

What am I working on today? Quilt Labels!

I used to be very diligent about getting labels on all my quilts, but somewhere between the last child getting off to college and grad school and beginning teaching, I sort of forgot to keep doing this.  So this summer, one of my Works In Progress is to get labels on all my quilts.  I thought I’d share with you my favorite method.  Come back Friday for Finishing School Friday to see what I’ve completed this week.

I’m completely in love with Jaybird’s labels, printed up at Spoonflower, but it you want a personalized label for each quilt, you’ll have to make each one individually.  There are tons of ways to do this, but here’s one I use and am comfortable with (because it’s easy). The printer method works best for wallhangings that won’t be washed a lot.  I have an Epson inkjet, and have done test samples on both machines about what happens to the fabric in the laundry. The inkjet holds up better to washing, if you are not going to go to the trouble of using BubbleJet Set on your fabric.  If you really want the wording on the label to stick around on a quilt that will be washed a lot, I think that the Bubble Jet is mandatory.

Or, get out your pigma pens and WRITE the label.  I’ve done the latter several times.  This was a label for a quilt by our little quilting group: The Good Heart Quilters.

Here’s a more elaborate one (the lower part is a poem) which I bordered, then cut out the pansies and appliqued them around the border.  Both of these quilts have been washed a lot of times and the print is still fine and readable.  It’s just the photographer who is shaky!

But for the printed label, write up what you want on your label in a word processing program on your computer.  My basic items are the name of the quilt, who made it and quilted it (sometimes there are different quilters and it’s only fair they should get some credit).  Then after that it varies.  I generally always put the date I finished and sometimes I put the date I began.  I learned also that having the size of the quilt was handy for when I wanted to enter it into quilt shows.  Sometimes I add the name of the city (I’ve moved a couple of times) as it all shows some of the quilt’s history. I like to write a little blurb of one or two lines about the quilt, but sometimes this blurb gets out of hand.  Then I’ll call it History of the The Quilt and break it out onto a separate label.

At any rate, when you finish that, print this out on your printer using regular paper (to check spelling, placement, etc.).  Cut a piece of fabric the size of your words, back it with freezer paper and place it right on that paper you just printed out.  Tape it down on three sides with masking/painter’s tape (Picture 1).  Run it through your printer, then peel off the tape (Picture 2).  You now have a printed label (Picture 3).

To “set” the label, get out a few more sheets of plain paper, lay over the top and press, with a bit of steam.  I do this several times with several sheets of paper until I see that there is no transfer of ink onto the blank paper.  I’m still cautious after that about laying my iron down on the laserjet printing, as it’s kind of “plastic-y” and you can melt it with a hot iron.

Trim up the label.  Use a gridded ruler to keep  the edges square to the printing.  On the label, I keep a 3/4″ margin all the way around.  On the History bit, I use a 1/2″ margin.

Trimmed.

 I like to border my labels.  On the left, sewn.  On the right, sewn and ironed into shape.  Trim off extra fabric, leaving a 1/4″ inch edge to be ironed under.

Here it is pinned onto the quilt.  I like to place my labels so that, when facing the quilt and if the right hand lower corner was picked up, you would see the label.

Here’s one of my quilts from the back (I used a tea towel from France as the backing) and you can see the label placement. Here are some more examples:

I don’t know if you can tell, but I made a little flap (the upside-down people) for this quilt label.  When you enter a quilt show they like you to cover up your name (for judging purposes).

This was one of my favorite labels: an envelope on the back of the Valentine’s quilt about hearts being drawn together like “Twined Threads.”  And that was the name I gave to the quilt. A snap keeps the envelope shut.

And that’s what I’ve been working on–Quilt Labels! Click *here* to see what everyone else is doing.