June 30, 2012

The Tablecloth Project

We spent last weekend in the Michigan countryside at wonderful Ronora Lodge in Watervliet.  It's not a bad drive from Chicago, once you leave Chicago.  :-) 


Well, I wanted to bring some handwork.  Of course.  But I didn't have any projects in a handwork-ready state.  

Solution:  Start something new!  You know, because I have such a scarcity of projects and an abundance of time.  Ha.  Ha.  

Hence, "The Tablecloth Project".  This is a cut-work embroidery tablecloth that was started by my mother-in-law quite a few years ago.  My husband says they had at least three, and she also made them as gifts.  He estimates she made about a dozen, all in all!

The nice thing about this one is that it's in a color combination that I really like.  The odd thing is that these are colors that she didn't generally use, in her own home decorating or clothing choices.  I like to think that it was meant to be mine all along.....

She seems to have enjoyed skipping around, so nowhere is totally completed. This is a real help to me, because I know what colors are supposed to go where, I have samples of all the stitches I need to learn, and her dangling thread ends made it easy to see that she was sewing with two strands of floss.  Most of the work she had done was in the corners.  

She also had worked 2 of the scalloped edges, as you can see in the photo of the whole tablecloth, but not all of the flowers along them.

The center medallion is virtually untouched.

The big problem for me is that she didn't keep the floss with the tablecloth.  And we didn't find the threads anywhere when we cleared out the apartment.  So I headed to the store before we left for Michigan, hoping to find somewhat matching threads.  There was a perfect purple and two potential greens.  Everyone at the store, including me, decided that the darker green was better.  But when I got up to Michigan and started sewing, it looked way too dark (on the right).  So I finished up all the purple berries I could find.

When we got home, I went back to the store and picked up a skein of the lighter green (on the left).  Much better!  It's still a bit greyer, duller, than the original.  But the green threads that have the brightness are also way too yellow.  So this will be the green.

I've also ordered the variegated threads - golden, green, and lavender.

I figure I'll finish this up in 20 years or so.  I can't imagine making 12 of these!  Kudos to and fond memories of my MIL, Jeanie!  She also liked to knit, crochet, and do many others kinds of embroidery.  I'm enjoying working on this while remembering having her as my second mom.

June 22, 2012

Road to the Wedding Quilt

I posted a couple of weeks ago about this quilt that I made for a friend's son's wedding.  Here is the story of the design process.

I've come to rely heavily on the internet for design inspiration, and for photos to mix and match for sketching purposes.  So all of these sketches were done by clipping bits of artwork from many sources and manipulating them in Adobe Illustrator.  I often used the pen tool to draw shapes over the photos and re-color so I could imagine the actual color scheme I was planning to use in the quilt.

My first thought was to combine symbols of the bride's and groom's careers.  The groom is studying to become an osteopathic physician.  The bride is an oboist.  I thought about making an osteopathic caduceus with the snake entwined about an oboe:
Somehow, I just couldn't warm up to this image, or to the thought of the detailing required in all the keys on the oboe.

So next, I thought about using state blocks to represent their history so far - NY, IL, MO, and OH.  As a setting, I thought about a baby quilt I made several years ago for the child of two musicians that included the music for Ode to Joy.  I made two versions of that, both of which seemed too awkward and unbalanced:

So I dropped the Ode to Joy idea, and tried state blocks plus double wedding ring.  For the first try I left out MO because they didn't spend much time there, but I also left out IL (must've been working late at night).  

For the next attempts, I stuck in the IL oak leaf instead of the "official" IL block because I like it better.  But the design was still not entirely pleasing to me:

This one I nixed because the corner blocks didn't balance each other well at all:

So..... the whole plan got bigger and more complex.

This one I nixed because the oak leaf blocks came too far forward and overshadowed the rest:

Then I tried using the NY sunbursts as a sort of border:

And I tried it with a sky blue background, and two different renditions of the double wedding ring.  I decided that the chain version made too many X's alongside the oak leaves, kind of makes my eyes buzz.  The circle version is much easier to look at:

These were alright, but my family was unanimous in saying they didn't like so much spikiness around the edges.  And truly, spikiness is not a good way to start a marriage!

Then I got the notion to try the center part on point.  This is the design that eventually won out:

I also tried it this way, but felt that there was too much blank space at the edges.  Having the sunbursts at the corners gave the whole thing more of a sense of being bordered.  A marriage should have an anchor and not fade off into emptiness.

I decided to reduce the spikiness by using blue rather than white as the background color for the NY Beauty sunbursts.  But then, when I pinned them on to appliqué them down, I found that they were too quiet.  So I added the white edging:

So it was not a smooth road, but hopefully I've symbolically worked out all the bumps for this young couple, and their life ahead will be full of wonder and joy.

June 16, 2012

The Cats Go To A Wedding

I've gotten such nice response to the post about the wedding quilt I just finished, that I thought I'd write up the wedding quilt I made last June.

A long time ago, I'd discovered this really cute cat block while surfing.  http://w1.avis.ne.jp/~miyako/cat.JPG
(To see more of Miyako's work, go to her home page.)

When Emmie and Gordon, who are great cat-lovers, announced their engagement, I just knew I'd found the perfect use for this block.  The cats are even wearing bow ties, so are dressed and pressed and ready to attend a formal event!

I drafted my own templates according to the look of the photo.  I think my kitties turned out to be a bit more pudgy than in the original quilt.

I opted for more naturalistic colors, except, obviously, for the center cat that bears the inscription.  These swirly, vibrant fabrics are dyed by Ellen Anne Eddy.  They are used for the bow ties for all the other cats as well.

This cat represents Emmie and Gordon's ginger cat Leo.

And this one is my late and beloved silver tabby Otto.  I've known Emmie since "before she was born", so she and Uncle Otto were quite well acquainted.

The rest of the crowd are no one in particular, just an homage to the wonderful world of The Cat.  I had great fun choosing buttons from my burgeoning button collection for the knots on the bow ties.

All the fabrics came out of my stash.  It was great fun designing the cats, looking at both colors and prints that express "fur" rather than "flower garden".  Emmie and Gordon just celebrated their first anniversary, and are as happy as happy can be.

June 10, 2012

A Wedding Quilt

At 11:00 yesterday morning, I attended a wedding.  At 4:15 in the afternoon, I put the final stitches in a quilt, wrapped it up, and left at 5:30 for the reception.  I'd started planning the quilt last November, but still, it came down to the wire.  Ah, well.

When I make quilts for wedding gifts, I often base the design on things I know about the couple - things they like to do, their careers, their names.  For example, once I made a quilt with a garden trellis-like arrangement of harmonicas, because the groom is a musician and teacher, with roses climbing up the trellis, because the bride's name is Rose.

For this wedding, I chose several traditional quilt blocks:

In the corners, are the four sunbursts from a New York Beauty block.  This represents Sarah who grew up in New York.  She is, of course, Nathan's New York beauty.

The Illinois Oak Leaf represents Nathan who grew up in Illinois, the son of a friend I have known since we were in 7th grade.

In the center is Ohio Star, since the couple met while in grad school in Ohio, and now reside there.

And finally, the Double Wedding Ring ...... which needs no further explanation.

The color choice comes directly from the color scheme for the wedding.

For the story of the design process for this quilt, see Road to the Wedding Quilt.

The wedding was just as joyous and fun as a wedding should be!  Many blessings on Nathan and Sarah!

June 7, 2012

A Guy Named Skins

Well, I guess this is my year for really branching out from repairing only quilts.  Last winter, I had my first experience with an ancient tapestry.  In the early spring, I repaired some Japanese silk banners.  And now, I've just completed repairs of a doll.  And not just any doll - a skin diver doll.  And not just your normal, run-of-the-mill skin diver doll (if there is such a thing) - a combo skin diver / shark doll.  Really.

His name is Skins.  He came to me swaddled in a hand towel, not looking too perky.

His problem was that his wet suit was giving way, and some of his plastic pellets were escaping.  His family did some first-aid with band-aids.  And they lightly glued some of the escaped pellets to the back of his head.  Poor guy.  He looks pretty miserable.

I began by checking out the shark, just to make sure there was no internal problem.  Unzip his "mouth"......

Just grab the tail, and here's the shark.  The shark is not stuffed, but serves as most of the stuffing for Skins' head.

The shark is in fine shape, still attached all around, so there is no escaping pellet problem there.  But really, is this not the most amazing doll you've ever seen?

Then, I removed the band-aids.  Happily, I discovered that in most places the damage was simply that the pile of the fabric had worn away.  The actual structure of the fabric is still in tact and holding in the pellets just fine.  It feels strong enough to continue doing so for some time to come.  There were only 2 places with actual holes.

So I began by reinserting the pellets that had been stuck to the back of Skins' head, and patching the holes.  The largest was on the side of his head, shown here with the patch.  He also had a smaller hole on one hand.

Then, I began building a new suit for him.  I found a really nice black knit fabric with two-way stretch and a bit of a sheen.  I used tracing paper laid on the doll to make very rough pattern pieces, and then cut pieces of fabric quite a bit too large.  I pinned a piece on to the doll, and trimmed away excess fabric as I sewed.

It was kind of a challenge to figure out the sewing order.  I was careful to preserve the stripes down the outside of the legs.  I didn't try to cover the fabric right around the mask, as that would have probably not come out looking too well, and the original fabric, while worn, has no pellets behind it.  As a final touch, I added a bit of machine stitching to reproduce the detailing on his flippers.

Here's Skins in his new wet suit.


I must say that Skins and I became very well acquainted during this process.  He was a favorite buddy of a now-30-something year old.  Her father decided to fix Skins up as a surprise gift.  Good ol' Skins looks ever so much happier now, don't you think?