Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Snail's Trail

"Do not follow where the path may lead...Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."  — Robert Frost

Ok, back to the round Robins.  The next one I received was Ken’s.  I was really please to receive this one.  I’d sort of been on Ken a little to try something more challenging.  So far, most of his quilts had been different color variations of the first quilt he ever made (from a class).  I think he’d made at least 10 of these.  They looked great, but he needed to step outside of his comfort zone a little more.  I was really please to see he’d done a snail’s trail block for his round robin. 

One interesting thing about Ken.  He’s color blind, but rather than be a handicap as a quilter, it seems to work out to his advantage.  His color blindness works out to be a built-in value finder.  As a result, Ken has a very good value sense when it comes to picking fabrics…and he doesn’t get obsess over color choices.  As long at the values provide good contrast the colors all just go together.

The first border, done by my God-child Azureen.  Az loves working with very bright fabrics.  She’d have been right at home in the 60s, since she prefers very bright primary colors in her quilts.  She also loves orange…yet another quilter not afraid of the dreaded orange.

The border itself is a variation of the braid pattern Az learned from Anne Gallo the previous fall. This colorful border pulled out the color from the paint-splatter dots in the inner block.  It worked very nicely.

When I received this quilt, I’d just finished taking the Chinese Lattice class from Carol Miller, the Dean of Quilt University.   Here is my finished Chinese Lattice quilt.  This is still on the UFO list, but I really liked the way the border wrapped around the inner block, and decided to reuse the design here.  And, as chance would have it, I’d just finished a fresh batch of hand dyed fabric…why dye if you’re not going to use it.  This border worked out very nicely, providing a nice calming effect for the bold colors Az used.

Next up was Marcia…and this was an amazing border, with both applique and reverse applique.  The purple background really enhanced the colors of the hand dyes inside of it. 

Outside of that was a simple star design by Emerald.  Once again, because the previous border was complicated, a simple border was used, which set the stage for Cindy to go wild with a scrappy outer border that echoed the colors used by Azureen.

Monday, May 09, 2005

An Eternal Golden Braid

 "All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."  (Grant Wood)

It was back to the Henry Farm Inn again this weekend, for another wonderful weekend of sewing with Anne Gallo and Susan Raban.  We spent an extra day this time, arriving on Thursday evening, departing on Sunday.  Normally these workshops run Friday-Sunday, but we’d decided we wanted more time to work on things.

This was a small group this time, only 6 sewers.  In addition to our core group of me, Ken, Cindy, and my God-children Emerald and Azureen, we were joined by Pat from Lowell, Mass.  We all sort of worked on different projects this time.  Ken and Cindy wanted to learn how to do braid quilts (one of Anne’s specialties), Pat was working on a pinwheel quilt, Azureen did a bunch of little projects, including making some quilted purses, and Emerald went off and did a project of her own invention, with amazing results.

As for me, I had already taken Anne’s braid class at Quilter’s Way, so Anne decided I should just play around with braid variations.  She did not arrive until Friday afternoon, but she had Susan deliver a piece of graph paper with a diagram of a braid variation and the notation “For Rick to make”.  Here’s Anne’s original version:

Annes First

The variation here was the additional two square blocks around the braid points, one in color, one in black.  This was interesting, but it created a bit of separation between the braid units that sort of lost the braid effect.  I suspect it would show up a little better if paired with additional braid units.

Next I decided to try something a little more complicated.  The colored squares were nice, but a block made with half-square triangles would look right at home there.  Here is variation #2.

Half Square

This one worked out great!  The half squares in the middle created a nice point of interest in the middle, but also enhanced the appearance of the braids rather that creating a big space between them.  A bit more complicated to make.  I was glad I had brought my Easy Angle ruler with me, since I had only brought 2 1/2 inch strips with me.

I was not ready to give up on the first variation yet.  I felt it was still possible to create some unifying structure in the middle using just squares, but a little more interesting color structure was needed.  By this time it was lunch, so we combined a lunch run with a trip to Quilt-A-Way fabrics.  At Quilt-A-Way, I picked up some gray and white fabrics.  When I got back to the machine, I used these fabrics with the black to create a gradient in the middle.  This time I made two braid strings and combined them.

Black and White

This was “way cool”!  The center stripe became the focal point, and the braid strips created a nice frame around the stripes.

Now I was starting to roll.  One of the variations I’d used before used a black strip along side the braid to create a stained glass effect in the braid.  I decided it was time to try some variations on the black leading.  My first attempt was pretty much a flop…amazingly, the only real failure I had this weekend.


The attempt to use the short strips just didn’t work.  And it didn’t take too many rows to figure this out either.  I was pretty sure how it could be fixed, however. 

Leaded Squares

This was much better, and one of my favorite designs from the weekend.  Ok, one more variation on the leading.

Simple Leading

This one used the strips to separate entire chevrons.  The traditional use of the leading oriented the strips so each braid piece was completely framed.  I think this variation would work best if the same color strip was being used for both sides of the chevron.  Note the little goof I made here on the bottom.  I forgot which way I’d been sewing, so I switched sewing directions after the first chevron….oops!

This lead to experiments with varying the size of the braid strips, which produced a number of interesting effects.  Attempt #1 was essentially the same as the one above, but used colored strips cut to 1 1/4” rather than black 1” strips.

Two Sizes

This was a very nice effect.  I tried mixing narrow and wide strips on the same chevron, and also switching the wide/narrow sides back and forth. 


This was sort of interesting…not entirely sure how I’d use it, but it’s interesting none the less. 

Another standard braid variation uses a black square at the point.  Anne suggested trying this with the different sized strips. 

Dual Squares

Another one in the “way cool” category.  The switch between the small black squares and the large black square was a very interesting effect.  This one lead me to try the version with the leading around the squares with the different sizes. 

Dual Leading

Wow!  I think this was my favorite variation from the weekend. 

By this point, I was starting to run out of ideas.  I thought it might be interesting to add a black square on the end of each chevron piece, rather than just a single piece used to create the blocks effect.  This created a zig-zag pattern down the middle of the braid.  This version again needed to be combined with a second braid to be affective:

Zig Zag

By this point, I was tapped out.  Pat suggested I try playing with the color placement instead of the structure.  I had picked up a bunch of sea color fabrics at Quilt-A-Way, so decided to try a gradient effect.


This was pretty neat.  I think I’m going to end up using this piece as the background for some sea life applique.  I’ll see what I can come up with here.

Ok, at this point, I was tapped out.  Fortunately, it was dinner time, so I was able to take a break.  Anne and I were batting around some ideas at dinner, and suddenly the light bulb went off….flying geese on the braids!

After dinner, I immediately jumped back into it.  Here’s my first flying goose attempt, using quick folded flying goose blocks on the chevrons.

Yellow Geese

I loved the movement this created, and I particularly like the way the braiding in the center section really stood out.  At this point, all sorts of possibilities around this motif were flying through my head.  I only had time to do a couple more, unfortunately.  The one above used long side strips on either side of the goose.  For my second version, I decided to use a black point block, and butt the goose strips up against the center block.

Delta Wing

This created an interesting delta-wing formation in the middle, as well as making the braid section part of the wings.  And my final variation of the weekend, which was essentially the same as the first flying goose block, but using black for the goose part.

Black Geese

Even though this is the same design as the previous one, it has a completely different look because of the change of fabric.  In this one, the geese are de-emphasized, and the braids stand out more strongly.

Well, that was the end of the weekend.  Since I’d just spent three weeks working rather intensely on Emerald’s graduation present, it was a very nice break to just sit and play with these designs.  At some point, I’m going to see if I can’t assemble all of these strips into a single sampler quilt.  This will certainly be an interesting challenge.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Do Androids Dream of Electric Quilts

Ok, I had the first round robin block in hand, and was trying to decide what to do.  This block was from my God-child Azureen.  Az already had in had a block she had made at our last Henry Farm Inn quilt weekend (the Christmas Star block).  She added two simple border around the block to bring it up to the suggested 18” and passed it along to me. 

The block used light and dark purples, some rainbow colors, and a light pink background.  The purples and rainbow colors were ok with me, but I didn’t really do light colors.  For a border idea, I “reused” an idea from a class I’d been taking at Quilt University (more on this topic later).  I was taking a class on Electric Quilt Borders and Layouts, taught by Fran Gonzolez.  I thought one of the borders Fran had used in the class was sort of neat, and decided to use it.  Electric Quilt made this fairly easy.  I drew up a block that roughly matched Az’s block, and sized to the same finished dimensions.  After that, it was a simple matter to draw the border around the block and print out paper templates for cutting.  This border design involved piecing together a number of long and skinny triangles, which was an interesting exercise.  I’d done something similar with some of the block bender quilts I’d made, so I managed to get by. 

I decided to use a rainbow color batik to mirror some of the rainbow colors that Az had used, but had a bit of a problem finding a light-valued batik that gave good enough contrast with the focus fabric.  This has been a general problem with my fabric stash, but slowly I’ve managed to fill in this hole.  The border came out really nice, but I think if I were to do this again, I’d have added a narrow dark colored border between Az’s outer most fabric and my border to give a little separation.  The rainbow colored outer edge of her block sort of fades into the border I added. Anyway, here’s the result.  I just discovered that I don’t have a picture of her quilt in completed form.  I’ll update this once I get picture of the final result.

An amusing aside on this one.  Several months later I was taking another Quilt University class on borders, and was describing the round robin project and how I’d been using border ideas I’d gotten for QU classes.  When I mentioned I’d used the triangle border from the Electric Quilt class, the instructor (Carol Miller) expressed real surprise that I’d made that one for real. Carol said that border was just an example intended to illustrate the EQ principles, and had never been intended to be used.  As far as she had known, nobody else had ever made that border.  Ah, the luxury of ignorance .