Friday, July 23, 2004

On a Bender....

     Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile... initially scared me to death.
        -- Betty Bender

I'm not sure who Betty Bender was, but this sums up the problems a lot of quilters have with trying something new.  New stuff is outside your comfort zone, the place where you feel comfortable and confident.  The new is scary, and by definition, unknown. 

Whenever I find myself hesitant to try something new, I play a little game with myself.  Think of something you are very good at today, right now.  It doesn't have to be at all related, it just has to be something you enjoy doing, and can do well.  For example, I enjoy walking.  Pretty simple, do it all the time...yet at one point in my life all I could do was crawl.  And I had to work my way up to that point!  One day, I decide to take my first step, then the second.  Now I don't even bother to own a car and spend 90+ a day walking.  Once I was hopeless, then I tried it out, and eventually, could do it without even thinking. 

Ok, so what's the point of all of this?  Well, for some time now, I'd been collecting quilting books, many purchased off of eBay.  Many of the books contained ideas that caught my eye, but required me to set off in new directions to do.  One book was a particularly good inspiration, Margaret Miller's Block Benders. 

This book is unfortunately out of print (but I've got a copy...bwah ha ha!!!!!!!!!).  I loved the optical illusion of creating curves using only straight lines.  I loved the lack of an evenly spaced grid, and was mentally playing with ideas on how I might make a quilt in this style.  Margaret uses pencil and paper to plan out her quilts, but I'm a computer geek!  We don't need no stinkin' pencils!

I started playing around with QuiltPro, but couldn't really figure out how to make a quilt in that style.  Then I started playing around with Electric Quilt (version 4 in those days), and again, I couldn't figure out how to do.  Eventually, I purchased the book EQ4 Magic, which showed out to create an irregular grid layout using the Custom Set feature (EQ5 name....I think it was called something else in EQ4).  I was off to the races!

I played around with a simple design for my first attempt.  You know, rainbow colors, black background....don't want to step TOO far outside of my comfort zone .  I created a set of templates for cutting these blocks by printing out templates from EQ4, then cutting them out from template plastic. 

Important tip:  Never accidentally set an iron on top of a plastic template.  You know those little punch out things they sell kids that shrivel up and shrink when placed in an oven?  Same principle!

I cut all of the pieces out, and took them with me to Connecticut to visit my friends Ken and Cindy.  We had something of a quilting weekend on that trip, visiting lots of fabric stores and generally spending a lot of time in the basement sewing.  The border strip around the main layout was snagged from Cindy's fabric stash.  It's sort of interesting how fabric stashes grow.  I have a fabric stash, Cindy has a fabric stash, and Ken has a fabric stash, and they are all completely different in character.  It was actually hard finding a fabric from Cindy's stash that enhanced my jewel-tone fabric selections.  I think the one we grabbed worked very well.

That one was sort of fun.  The "bi-rangles" were a bit difficult to sew together, particularly the "long and skinnies".  for these quilts, it can be difficult to get the diagonals to hit right at the quarter inch seam allowance properly.  Mostly a matter of practice.  I highly recommend using "fabric tabs" to start and end sewing on these blocks, and a single hole needle plate is also a good idea.  It can be difficult to start sewing some of these, because the skinny point can get pulled down into the hold.

Short aside:  At a quilt workshop at the Henry Farm Inn, Deb Tucker dubbed these fabric tabs "dingleberries".  How can I phrase this delicately?  A dingleberry is a little bit of dangling excrement on a dogs rear end after it finishes going to the bathroom.  The term sort of captures the idea of the fabric tabs .

Gee, that was fun, and pretty easy to do....but it didn't really use many fabrics!  Let's try again, but with gusto!  This time I used 4 quadrants like the first, but used bands of color like I did with the wedding quilt, squeezing the color toward the middle.  For the layout, I alternated bands, starting in to corners, and progressing to the other side.  The progressions met in the middle, in the "green phase". 

Since the two middle bands ended up the same color, I used dark values and lighter values to separate them, and gave them a little twist so they crossed over.  I spent a lot of time shopping for green fabrics for this one, so I've have enough shades to choose from!

This quilt was given to my friend Marcia, and hangs in their bedroom today.

Ok, during this phase, I'd been really expanding my fabric stash in new directions.  One new found love was hand dyed fabrics.  I had picked up a nice assortment of color wheel progression hand dyes, and was dyeing to use it.  I had also wanted to do something with black-and-white fabrics, and had been buying those for a while too.  I stepped up to the next block bender EQ5 design I had created, and was off to the races.  This is the result, which has a completely different look from the last one, even though it is precisely the same piecing design!

I had one more Block Bender in the planning stages, but this one deserves an entry of its own.


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