Saturday, December 20, 2014

Colouring up my life

A sunny day after a lot of gloomy cold and overcast days! And since I was out of yellow and blue fabric, I decided to take a break from sewing and paint some fabrics. I dont have easy access to buying fabric and painting them is a wonderful way out for me. Fun too as i love dabbling with colours though I am no artisṭ A fellow quilter asked for tips on painting and here I go. I have learnt all that I know from those generous souls out there who have shared tutorials. Deborah Hare's Quilt routes was the best and I have not yet done justice her diffeent methods. So without much ado here is my pictorial tute.

I use a wooden board covered with a plastic sheet measuring about 15" by 17".  The size was governed by the availability. Bigger ones are difficult to handle but it does mean that the fabrics I paint are necessarily small.

That is the plastic sheet discoloured after many layers of fabrics were placed on it and painteḍ . Which gave me an idea. I decided to top the plastic with a piece of white fabric and mop up the excess painṭ. This is what became of the white fabric.

My go to brush is the big one. I can quickly smear paint all over the fabric with this one. The paint I use is acrylic meant for fabric though I would love to try the silk paint. Sadly I have not been able to lay my hands on it. The process itself is very simple. All one needs to do is to dilute the acrylic paint a little as too much of it could make the fabric stiff. and then spread it all over the fabric. To facilitate the spreading, I spray some water or wet the fabric. The whole thing,board and fabric are left out in the sun to dry. Once dry it has to be heat set by ironing and then given a wash before it is ready for use.  To get a different look everytime  add things like little objects with definite shapes or plain old leaves and flowers and layer the paint. And you end up with gorgeous fabrics.
 This one was with four shades of colour - three blues and an emerald green alternating. After spreading the paint I just scrunched up the fabric (All right I lie.Too much of a Virgo to scruncḥ I did fold it up) and left it like that for a while and then sun-dried iṭ
  This was a lovely blue Cerulean I think, which I darkened with Ultramarine and then liberally scattered salt all over it. I usually go with crystal salt but today added a spoonful of powdered salt too. Lovely effect I think. the yellow below also has some salt just the crystal ones thougḥ Here after spreading the plain yellow I added a bit of red to darken the yellow. It turned out to be too much of red. Keeping aside the bulk of it I used a touch here and there to get this effect.

 The excess reddish/orange paint I mopped up with a piece of fabric.And that too looks lovely when dried.
 Some gulmohar leaves, a flower or two of Vinca rosea add to the design element. Just press them gently onto the damp fabric before putting them out in the sun.
 This one had a clover leaf and a bigger one that was heart shaped. I keep trying out all sorts of leaves. An experiment with flower petals is on the cardṣ
This one was following the layers method outlined by Deborah Hare. I used three four colours and scrunched the fabric to get this. Looks like the evening sky on some days with the red and dark streaks.
Some of these fabrics have not been made with anything in mind while some are for the quilt blocks I am currently working on. I have to admit I am tempted to buy all the shades of paint available and try them out!. perhaps I will too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Old hat or new cap!

We have a saying in tamil that translated means - what you know is like a 'handful of earth', what you dont know is as big as the Earth!. I was reminded of this proverb when I came upon a new technique recently. Well it was new to me - probably it is old hat to you. I am sure Madhu Mathur of Patchwork of my life considers it a old hat. She casually threw the term at me when I was testing a block for her. Use freezer paper and join up the pieces. Sounded simple enough as I had used freezer paper to do my perfect circles (blogged here). But after printing as per her instructions I was puzzled as to how to proceeḍ. I am one of those who like step-by-step instructions and that with a lot of photos. I battered her with questions but since she was laid up with a bad back and could only use her Ipad and draw a couple of sketches with her bamboo software, I did not get much illumination. Not that I blame heṛ I mean picture her lying on a bed holding up the Ipad and trying to draw pictures to explain her ideaṣ My imagination sure boggles!
 And so I googled and read a bit before getting all the tips and tricks which I used while doing my new dresden circle quilt! And decided that a freezer paper foundation tutorial for a dresden circle was the need of the hour! fter all it is time to give back to the universe what I have amply received by way of tutorialṣ And of course this is also a easy reference for me if I need it years later!

I am doing a dresden wheel and I start with a printed template for a quadranṭ.

I am however planning to do not a quadrant but a half to avoid multiple joints so I need a semi-circle of the template. Please note that there is no seam allowance between the templates/sections - only at the ends. Fold your freezer paper in half and match one edge of the printed template with the folded edge. Insert a carbon paper between the template and freezer paper and fold it under the freezer paper so that you pattern is copied on top and bottom of the freezer papeṛ (Or go for you preferred choice of transferring patterns) Trace the lines including the seam allowance on three sides - the folded side will not have a seam allowance. When the freezer paper is opened out the template will be for a semi circle.
Like paper piecing these need to be needle punched so take them to your machine and choosing the longest stitch setting punch them all.
 Take them out and crease them along the stitch lineṣ. You will find out why a in a short while.
I am sewing dresden blades but you can sew anything with a straight edge in this fashioṇ It gives an almost accurate 1/4 inch seam and pefectly joined pieceṣ.
Get the first blade and as you would do in paper piecing lay it right side up on the shiny side of the first template Press it so that the fabric sticks to the paper taking care not to let the iron come onto contact with the rest of the freezer papeṛ. Turn it around and trim off anything in excess of 1/4 inch. The creases we made earlier will come in handy making it easy to find the line where we need to fold.

Lay the second piece on top of the first - right sides facing.
Now fold back the freezer paper except for the portion already sticking to the fabric and take it to the sewing machine.
Sew along the exposed fabric just right next to the folded freezer paper. Take care not to sew on the paper itself. Take it over to your iron and give the seams a press, open out the second piece of fabric and give it another press. The seams are pressed to one side in this as I found it rather challenging to peel back the freezer paper a little and press open the seams. The second piece of fabric will adhere to the template now.

Now it is time to trim. Fold back the freezer paper after the second piece of fabric, lay your ruler and trim a 1/4 inch from the second fabric. I find this very convenient as I can match the next piece properly
Continue sewing laying the third piece and so on in the same manneṛ.
And when you are done trim away the excess fabric from the top and bottom and join the side seams. I found it simple to remove the paper from one half and use the other to get my perfect 1/4 inch seams.
And here are my perfect Dresden wheels.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Around the world bloghop

I am not a great fan of tag games which keeps breaking out like a rash every now and then in the virtual world. Most of the time it is about the stuff that you hate or like or want or ............Well honestly why would anyone on the world want to know the songs I listen to over and over or the books that I cherish except to take a leap from it and talk about their own passions and pet peeveṣ.
So why did I allow myself to be tagged here in this bloghop? As someone who loves to read I enjoy reading blogs especially to find out what makes other people tick. And reading a quilters blog is like icing on the cake. One gets to know the stories behind  quilts and that is always a fascinating story. Anyday it makes for better reading than someones' pet peeves! So when Madhu Mathur of asked me if she could tag me I accepteḍ. Madhu works out of Jaipur and her quilts reflect the vibrancy and old world charm of the city. I fell in love with Madhu's Just takes 2 quilt and went over to her blog to learn all about her. and she helped me with this quilt
 And her other avatar as a quilt block designer is what now captivates me. If you want to know the designer in her you should be doing her BOM - it seems like no matter who does a block in those patterns they emerge a winner. The one below is a personal favourite.

I am supposed to answer these questions as part of the bloghop, a self exploratory trip  so here I go -

What am I working on
      I have just finished a quilt top for my 8 year old niece Mira and will be sandwiching it in a day or two. I want the quilt to be a surprise for her so I hope this picture does not come her way. I have no doubts she will be thrilled to receive this quilt as she has been impatiently waiting for it the last few months She has recently made up her mind to take up quilting as a profession when she grows up and I am so flattered to have inspired her. It makes this quilt all the more special. Here is a peek at the quilt in its half-way stage.

Perhaps this gift to her from me when she was born kickstarted her love for craft/art? 
Girl at the well - cross-stitched on Aida 
I am also working on the Round the year quilt BOM. I tested the second block for Madhu and from that one block this beautiful quilt was born. My test block is the centre piece and everything else seemed to naturally come togetheṛ in this quilt. It also reflects my current mild obsession with circles  I love this method of doing the circles and in this quilt used them as a canvas to showcase my passion for FMQ .

The other blocks from this BOM are in various stages of readiness including one yet to be printed out! Here is my dahlia and then the card trick which is yet to be put together.

I am also doing a BOM with Caroline of SewCanShe - the classic block quilṭ  Here is my favourite block from that BOṂ
And then I have this ongoing project that seems like it is going to be a lifetime projecṭ.  My grandmother' s flower gardeṇ. Not that my grandmother ever had a garden of flowers.

How does my work differ from others of its  genre
In as much as every individual puts her/his stamp on what she/he does. my work is different from others. And yet since Nature has already been there and all art is but an imitation and often a poor one I am a copyisṭ.
I have to admit that I get surfeited once I master an art or skill . All right master is a bad choice . I should say I cannot spend a lifetime just sewing bed quilts even if the patterns differ . That would be too tedious . My craft journey started with crochet and I have runners and complicated table mats that are now mute testimony to the hours I invested in theṃ. And then I fell in love with the ordered beauty of cross-stitch . Samplers and other little and some not so little wall art now decorate my walls and also those of my family who admired them . Then there was this time when I wrote - blogs, novels, fiction, funny stuff - well I thought they were funny at least.  Quilts have now taken over my life. But I have to admit that I love the look of wall quilts and art quilts and fiber art and mixed media art and they are all beckoning to me. All this does not make me a 'Jack of all trades'. I see how the tricks I picked up in quilting now helps me in  my dress-making, and I end up with crochet trims or a little embroidery on things I make thereby putting my own stamp. This pair of peacocks was a back breaker and took me three years to finish .

Why do I write/create what I do
Writing is simply the easiest way I express myself - I am more comfortable writing than speaking. In fact of late I even avoid the telephone for it seems like I just engage in thoughtless and pointless chatteṛ.Writing however gives one pause - you think and edit and clean up the frivolous or the petty stuff. Any day it scores over talking or in today's world - chatting! And of course as any writer would know it is your little mark on the world - destined to be lost perhaps or some day found and with the cobwebs blown way read by some curious and kindred spirit . And all other creations follows the same reasoning. I create when the mood gets me, to get away from the humdrum, to makes those chores seem just that - things to be done so that I can get on to the more important business of making pretty stuff. I create like any creator to be admired, to be appreciated, to enjoy those fleeting, tiny little moments of triumph that I too mattered, If it were all a matter of commerce one would be happy as long as they are sold . Creating something call it art or whatever, is for those hours you spend in the process and those few seconds of appreciatioṇ  Then it is time to move on to the next and the  nexṭ....
In as much as this is a way to open your heart and mind to fellow travellers in the path of creating beauty, I want to add another question .
What or who impacts your work the most?
 I belong to the period when schools used to have a class devoted to needle-work and samplers, beadwork and bag making and I guess I developed my liking for working with my hands then . No one else in my family ever showed a tendency to ply the needle - not then and not now and most of them do not understand why I 'work' for hours after all the housework is done instead of watching TV or napping or whatever it is that others do. So it was the advent of dh in my life that encouraged the latent interest - from the time I went to classes to learn dresmaking till now. Hhe stays involved to the extent I ask him to - sometimes it is at the point of selecting one design over the other, sometimes it is the colour scheme and of course he is always the first to admire or appreciate or even point out and talk about my work to others . Not to mention all the prosaic work of buying me threads and notions, mailing and picking up stuff. Or whiling away time while I stay cooped up in a room working on my latest passion . So if I were to point to one person who made it possible and makes it work on a daily basis it has to be him . Not surprising then that he becomes the arbiter of the fate of my work. They pass his standards and I am satisfied with my work or fail and leave me with self-doubts that make me bury them in the back of my cupboard . Here is a work that I only executed - everything else from colour and design choice to deciding how it needs to be framed and who it should be gifted to is his choice.

People I tag
      It seems to me that blogging is on a slow track now. Micro blogging in social spheres has taken over and I know very few quilters who write.For that matter I had to dust the cobwebs off my blogs to write this but that has been long pending so I welcomed this opportunity. So I am tagging only a couple of people.
 I tag Caroline Nagar who not only creates beautiful quilts in a jiffy at that but also is a lovely hostess to the quilters' meeṭing in her city. She has this beautiful home that speaks of hours of housekeeping that makes me wish to give up my crafting and get back to basic skillṣ Ah I am kidding you!!!!! Can't ever do thaṭ. Caroline is from a family where all the male members seem to be in the armed forceṣ. Her blogs are a revelation to us ordinary folk who have never had to contend with absent spouse or parent whose whereabouts are sometimes kept a secret! You can visit her here and here.
And I tag Sandhya Karandikar who combines culinary skills and crochet with her passion for quilting. She blogs at

Saturday, July 5, 2014

An evening at the pond

An evening at the pond
We have a word for it in our language – ‘munthirikottai’ – translated it means cashew nut but it refers to the habit of the nut coming ahead of the fruit. So anyone who is a eager beaver is called that. And that’s what I did when Madhu of Patchwork of my life asked for testers for her Block of the Month. Put up my hand – both hands perhaps. I had a fair idea of the complicated blocks she was planning so I was secretly turning pale ( a bit difficult for me as those who have seen me will tell you) but I was forcing myself to jump into those deep waters. Madhu is planning to drag all us quilters willy-nilly into deep waters and for us timid wannabe quilters that may be the only way.
Anyway, she offered very sweetly to send me an easy one – if this was meant to be easy then I guess I will have more grey hairs by the time I finish this BOM – and I got the evening at the pond. Flying geese circling a pond ready to settle for the evening – that was the block and it took me back to my most favourite book by James Michener – Chesapeake. The book starts with the migration of geese from Canada as winter approaches. They seek the warmer climes of the south and travel long and hard. Their formation is V-shaped to cut through the resistance as they face the wind and the Flying geese block was named so by quilters because of the V shape.

The block kept taking me back to the book and as I mulled over my fabric selection it seemed only right that I should use this fabric that had v-shaped prints. They looked like what else – flying geese of course. And powdery blue for the sky – the polka dots was the snow. Yes I did get carried away and that is because I have reread the book so many times. A dark grey to set the whole thing off perhaps or would white be better.

The block works up to 18” and the circle of geese 15”. The circle is paper pieced while the setting comes with a template.

Madhu’s instructions were to not cut the paper pieces on the cutting line but to leave a bit around. Yeah I know that I could have gone closer to the line but that’s me being safe rather than sorry. And so the geese came to the cutting board.

I had my doubts at this stage but just wait until they get trimmed.

And all done here. I loved it like this - just the geese flying forever in circles!

The pond then was next in line. It was paper pieces in the form of wedges, calling for scraps of course and it seemed that a snow-bound lake in shades of green, aquamarine flecked with snow and broken ice was the ideal choice. That was again an image from Michener!
Pieced they became this –

I  chain-pieced them of course and kept walking back and forth to the ironing board  and my cutting mat to press and trim between every piece. The next part was tricky. I had to join the wedges to the flying geese individually. I was reluctant to rip out the paper – wanted to get perfect seams, so I did some research and settled for ripping out small portions of the paper along the seam line. Machining it was still difficult so I hand-basted them and then took them to the machine.

I paired them up as per the paper piece numbers and the centre was almost done. Before completing the centre, I contemplated Madhu’s suggestion that I do the circle my way. Not that I found it but just followed it in a quilt! Interesting possibilities for a new quilt. The only problem was to find something to draw a 7.5” radius circle. Still looking for that all over my house. The biggest bucket (duly dried) seems to be the best option. 
 I decided to use Madhu's template and test that too. It was a touch awkward joining the frame this way and I am still not sure if it was meant to be done that way but I love this one mistakes and all!

Notes to self - Never, ever forget to reduce stitch length. Had to deal with some stitches coming apart when paper was ripped. And to start stitching a touch before the printed lines for the same reason. And practice techniques for joining the pieces.

So now you know you can also do it - check it out here and do the BOM. I am hoping to do all the blocks. keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Squaring up circles

Three months into the year and I am struggling to get this blog going. Too many distractions in life and too many other priorities. Most of the time I opt to sew rather than write. That admission coming from someone who has managed couple of novels for nanowrimo should speak to the level of my obsession with quilting. I have even stopped reading! And I know many of those who know me will find that impossible to believe.
 My new finish though deserves to be written about. Not because it is good, though for someone who is a beginner like me, struggling to get points aligned or a neat finish, it is something to write about. No this deserves to be written about because of the way it happened and the people who had something to do with it.
We have a saying in Tamil that roughly translated means 'like a villager seeing a city'. That's how I gawk everytime I visit this gallery. Marianne Hak is one gifted quilter and I love the colour play in her quilts. Her Ripple Effect and Colour Shot made me visit her site frequently and for a while I even made one of them the background in my laptop. I loved the hand dyed fabrics that seemed to deepen in colour, the perfect rounds set in squares and sliced through with coloured spikes, the spiral quilting and the fact that one could never make out where a block began or ended. I had already decided I was going to make something at least remotely like those quilts and use her tutorials for spiral quilting and qayg when I did it.
So when Anna from DQ shared a tutorial for a simple way to Drunkard's Path my interest perked. Well it actually perked when I saw Vidya use the tutorial and make a beautiful circle set in a square.Voila. i had a way to do circles set in squares. Things happen providentially and I received a package of freezer paper from yet another friend. Told you at the beginning that there were so many people involved in this quilt in their own little way! So I took out the batik that I had been hoarding and gloating over since the time I got it from Tina at the Square Inch (formerly Quilts of Love).
Making these circles was really simple and soon I had a pile of them.

When I got bored with making the same kind of circles I went smaller and smaller.

I played around with their settings, chopped up some of the circles and recreated more colourful ones until I had enough to satisfy the colour craving in me. I had figured out that the inserts would have to be an inch in width when I sliced the circles. So I sliced and joined and also made sure that when I had a block that was a touch small, my inserts took care of it.

 And then I was off spiral quilting following this tutorial from Marianne's The Quilting Edge. I had already decided to use her tutorial for QAYG as well so all my blocks were pinned and proper, ready for the spiral show. The tutorial explains all the steps to be followed for spiral quilting but of course if there is way to screw up one always finds it. Three squares spirally quilted  and I saw with dismay that my squares were all going askew. All three layers were being pulled away form each other and I knew that after squaring my 12.5 " squares would end up a miserable 9" or less.
I sent out an SOS to the desi quilters group and soon had one of the experts Vani solving my problem. She educated me about lowering the pressure - not the tension, and in the process I learnt something new about my still-new machine. Some ripping and I was spiralling again - not out of control though.
 I added a few blocks with cheater fabric to avoid an sensory overload by the circles and spirals but still ended with a busy layout. this quilt was challenging me on all levels and it seemed like I had more frontiers to conquer. I have to admit the thought of quilting more blocks was not something that had me jumping in enthusiasm but I did not want to compromise. I took advice from all quarters but settled on couple of solids and one striped fabric to bring the quilt together. It changed the look of the quilt, maybe toned it down a touch with the straight line quilting. The back too was affected as I had used up all the fabric with my initial blocks. Luckily I had the same kind of fabric in a pleasant green and it added a special touch to the back even making some prefer it to the front.
The quilting showed up beautifully on the back and I am glad I took enough pains to do it neatly. Truthfully it is difficult to go wrong if you follow the tutorial properly! And so a special quilt was born and it is going to a special person too.She deserves it as she has been the one who has been nudging me into quilting since the last ten twelve years with books and tools.
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