This year has been very busy with my renovation project, my solo art exhibit, finishing oodles of 8”x10” small art pieces and starting my own online store. Sandwiched in-between were numerous trips to my little cabin in the woods as well as fun activities with my peeps; all while practicing social distancing. The online store has taken up most of the time I would normally have spent on my blog. With the majority of those tasks accomplished, I can once again share my triumphs with Operation Renovation.
A Return To Operation Renovation:
Operation Renovation is a project I started back in January. During the early days of this pandemic I searched for something to focus my attention on. At the time, I had a number of art pieces that were finished but not quite to my liking. With my pandemic anxiety level reaching an all-time high I decided to redirect my attention to those less-than-appealing projects. A number of successful outcomes have already been shared but I still have quite a few to go; time to get back to sharing my progress.
This art quilt began during the summer of 2017 (see photo above). In its original form it was a grouping of nine improvisational building blocks. Each of the blocks was surrounded by four white borders. The nine, with their stark white edges, were stitched together and surrounded by a white binding. They were quilted with a simple, but attractive straight-line quilting motif. The finished quilt remained in that state until recently; that’s when I decided the composition was just too blah. To remedy my dilemma I grabbed a seam ripper and removed the binding, then gave it a good pressing
At the same time I decided to tackle the renovation of Art Piece # 17 I had also decided to work on two other items. Those compositions contained four blocks each. They are Four Friends # 1 and Four Friends # 2. All three quilts could very easily have been left intact and mounted on a stretched canvas frame. Since I was making changes I decided to go wild and cut them all apart; I ended up with seventeen 5 1/2”x5 1/2″ units. To change things even further I reallocated them into eight separate art compositions: a six piece, a four piece, a two piece and five individual specimens.
The six piece composition was the first one to be finished. To give this item a punch of color I chose to add a two-tone blue border around each block. All six blocks were then stitched together to form a new quilt top. The newly created fiber art piece was sandwiched together with a layer of batting and a new fabric backing. To secure the layers together I traveled around each block stitching straight-lines with a variegated blue thread.
A New Name:
Once the quilting was finished I decided to give this renovated item a new name. As I allowed my eyes to travel over its surface I made a discovery; one of the units incorporated into the project was quilted differently than the others. This revelation gave me the inspiration to title this fiber art piece The Odd One. See if you can locate it!
In its finished form The Odd One measures 16″x20″. Protecting the back from dust and bugs is a paper backing. For ease of display two d-rings and wire were added to facilitate hanging on a wall. Silicone bumpers were also added to help minimize sideways movement stability and to promote air circulation.
I hope that you have enjoyed seeing the once blah specimen turn into something much more spectacular. Sharing these stories with you is one of the best parts of the entire process. Thank you for being here!
There is a local fabric store that is celebrating their first anniversary in business. To honor this anniversary they have offered a challenge. The challenge is to create a quilt measuring no larger than 20” x 20”. The deadline to submit entries is March 31, 2018. All projects must include this fabric.
So How Come?
Sound familiar? Sure it does! It is almost identical to the challenge I am running on this blog.
So how did I let myself get involved in another Mystery Challenge? I have frequented this store many times to search out fabrics for my ongoing projects. Their inventory includes many unusual prints which makes them a great resource. I’ve often been able to find just the right item to fit my needs. I also receive their newsletters.
In one of their emails they shared information about their upcoming anniversary as well as the opportunity to participate in their Mystery Challenge. As incentive to encourage participation they are offering cash prizes. The thought of winning cash probably draws people in but there is a small catch…an entrance fee. It’s not incredibly expensive. Just makes the cost of a fat quarter a bit much if one doesn’t follow through with the challenge.
The chance of winning money, surprisingly, is not my reason to join. The fabric wasn’t the draw either because I’m not particularly fond of the print or the colors. Gaining exposure through the judging process is what drew my attention. After tossing the idea around in my head, over and over again, I finally decided to take a leap. So here I am creating another project.
improvisation challenges you to rethink your common practices
Those were only a few of the words Sherri uses to describe improv. She also describes improv in this way:
Commitment on the Edge of the Unknown (page 97)
Where Should I Start?
The best place to start with a book is usually at the beginning. Like most books Sherri’s is divided into chapters, or scores, as she refers to them. I have read Sherri’s book from cover to cover many times. Many of the processes in her book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously are very familiar to me. The scores on curved piecing were the most intriguing though. Having already been exposed to the others I have decided to skip ahead and jump right into the fire. I’m going to begin with the “unknown.”
Score # 9
Using Sherri’s book as my inspiration I am going to follow her “Score # 9” to create my first “curved piece.” This will be a learning experience and a great opportunity to expand my horizons. So, let’s get started.
My first task was to harvest fabrics from my inventory to pair with the assigned fabric. I pulled some pinks, greens, oranges and blues. The focus fabric has hints of lime green incorporated in the pattern. Since lime green is one of my favorites I made sure that color was included.
I used my camera to take both color as well as mono photos of my fabrics to analyze them for their values. My hope was to achieve a well-rounded selection from the start.
Twisted Threads Colors Selection
Twisted Threads Mono Tones
Here’s how my color choices stacked up.
After choosing my fabrics it was time to get the construction process started.
Let’s Cut Fabric
I didn’t exactly follow Sherri’s instructions to a tee. She suggests using a scissors rather than a rotary cutter. I tried doing that but wasn’t fond of how my strips turned out. It is possible that if I had my scissors sharpened I may have been more successful. Not wanting to be bothered with that now I chose to use my rotary cutter. Keeping that sharp is much easier. I also used a ruler. Sherri believes in cutting her fabrics free-hand but once again I wasn’t pleased with that outcome either. Aren’t I a rebel!
I created many sets of wedge strips; here’s one of them.
Below is a larger selection.
Next I stitched groupings of wedge strips together.
Notice all the pins. Sherri uses loads of pins to temporarily hold her wedge strips together. This makes it easier to keep the strips aligned while stitching. Of course each pin is removed just before the needle reaches it. The more pins the better.
This is what a strip looked like after it was stitched but before it was pressed open.
I made multiple sets of wedge strips using different arrangements of fabric. The photo above shows some of them.
Composing A Design
After building my inventory of wedge strips it was time to start composing a design. I placed all of the strip sets on my design wall and played around with different arrangements. As I found groupings that I liked I took them to my sewing machine to stitch them together. Many times the attaching of the strips meant there were sections that needed removing. Those were trimmed using my rotary cutter. The removed strips were saved and added in new areas.
The whole process of pinning, stitching and trimming went on for hours. Each adjustment or addition changed my piece in dramatic ways.
Once I had a design that I was happy with I auditioned various fabrics to use for the background. I even enlisted the help of my hubby to narrow down the options. He had many great insights to share. I guess he’s been listening to me after all! 🙂 With a background chosen I was ready to proceed with the quilting.
I decided to fuse my design to the background fabric. Before doing so I turned under the raw edges 1/4” and pressed them in place. Next I hand stitched the outer edge to my background with a dark purple thread. Once my wedge design was securely fastened I used a variegated yellow thread to quilt it. On the background fabric I echoed around my center design with a matching, variegated purple thread.
After the quilting was complete I trimmed off the excess fabric; remember my piece couldn’t be larger than 20” x 20”. The raw edges were then protected by facings. A label and hanging sleeve were also added. This is how my piece looked when it was finished.
I’m sure you have probably noticed, from the labels on the photos above, that I have given this piece the name Twisted Threads. As I was creating my piece the process of cutting and turning the various groupings every direction brought to mind a vision of twisted threads. Twisted Threads then seemed like the natural choice for a name so that’s where the name came from.
Part of creating art is the evaluation process that comes at the end. On page 20 Sherri says:
Never judge a work as good or bad.
Instead she recommends that you
evaluate your work in a non-judgmental way.
She uses these questions to evaluate her pieces:
What surprised me?
What did I discover or learn?
What was satisfying about the process or outcome?
What was dissatisfying?
If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?
Where do I want to go from here?
I found the process of creating my curved art piece challenging and interesting all at the same time. The steps taken to make the wedged strips was fun to follow. I enjoyed seeing how the different color combinations changed with the addition of new strips. Stitching the curved pieces together was the area that stretched me the most. Merging the concave edges with those that were convex is what tried my patience. This was a much slower process than I was used to but its results were far more rewarding.
If you had asked me right after I had finished my curved piece if I would be making another I probably would have said, “No!” Now that I have had some time to evaluate my experience and think about what I would do differently, my answer would be, “You Bet!”
As I stated earlier, merging the curved edges together into one was the most challenging. To help make the process easier in the future I would strive to create gentler curves. The curves with the more pronounced angles were the hardest to manage. If those were eliminated the experience would be much less stressful.
I also would resist the temptation to use up all of the trimmed-off segments. My piece, as it turned out, has so many different angles merging into one another. Each one of those sections is screaming for attention. If I had added breathing-room via the use of solid colors I believe my piece would have been much more relaxing to look at.
Moving forward I would like to improve my skills for the techniques that I have learned. I’d also like to explore the addition of bias strips as a means of adding negative space. My next attempt at creating a curved piece will most likely be on a larger scale. There will be no need to stay within the 20” x 20” dimensions.
There’s my evaluation. Time now to enter my project in the contest.
I am always so thankful for your visits and the wonderful comments you share. Your participation is very much appreciated!
Do you ever come across fabric combinations, while searching for a specific project, that just seem to be meant for one-another? So often I get sidetracked during those expeditions by accidental piles that grab my attention. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you!
Crossroads, AP # 22, The Beginning
Crossroads, AP # 22
I’ve had this happy accident occur on more that one occasion. Shown above, on the left, is a grouping of fabrics I stumbled upon a while ago. Those fabrics eventually became Crossroads, Art Piece # 22 (pictured on the right).
Candidates # 1 and # 2
While scrounging through my fabric scraps recently, these two piles of fabric caught my eye.
A Dark, A Medium and A Light
Blues and Greens
The grouping on the left I’ve named A Dark, A Medium and A Light. At the bottom of the pile is a grouping of blocks I had previously stitched together. They were part of an assignment I had during my Rayna Gillman class in May of 2016.
To teach us how to analyze our art pieces for their light, medium and dark tones Rayna gave us an assignment. The assignment was limited to no more than four colors. Each color had to be analyzed for its color value. Within those four colors we needed a light, a medium and a dark. I chose yellow, white, red and green for mine.
Ever since that class my piece has been sitting in my unfinished pile. When I came across the above fabrics I just knew I had to find that neglected art piece and add it to the family. I can’t wait to see what I can create with this grouping.
Blue, Green and Yellow
The small grouping of blues, greens and yellows are the other candidates I’ve singled out. One can only imagine what this pairing will look like when it is finished.
What If Moments
Well, there’s my peak at the possibilities for two more art pieces. These what if moments are the sparks that keep my journey exciting! I can’t wait to see where my imagination will lead me.
Thank YOU so much for allowing me to share my daydreams! Your participation makes these adventure even more interesting.
I’m in my studio, no music on, sitting in my comfy rolling chair thinking about my Bits and Pieces. I’ve been working on this thing for days now and yet there is something about it that doesn’t sit right. Just when I think things are going great and I see the finish line ahead, the train goes off the track. This train hasn’t just gone off the track, no this train has returned to the station. sigh Yup, that’s right! I’m back at the drawing board. This is how my quilt looked the last time we were together.
I really thought I had something going here. I had already sewn many of the blocks together into sections but there was something about it that didn’t feel right. Most of the fabrics I used came from the same company, Handloom Batiks, while the others were retrieved from my fabric stash. The solids were obviously from my stash as well as the red fabric in the bottom right corner, the orange woven fabric with the red floral pattern and the golden fabric with the red scribbles. I was pretty much resigned to leave the solid colors in place. Removing them from the mix would be a huge undertaking and I definitely was not up to that challenge. The print fabrics, though, were definitely doable. So, believe it or not my mission today was to eradicate those from my quilt.
Time to Take it Apart
One by one I took the sections down from my design wall and began disassembling it. I removed all of the stitching that held the various blocks together. Now that doesn’t mean I took absolutely everything apart. Heavens, I think I would have to have my head examined if I did that. 🙂 Just the stitching between the blocks was removed. Not all of the seams were carefully taken apart with a seam ripper either. I did take a shortcut or two with my rotary cutter. snicker The amount of fabric I lost by using the rotary method was so minimal but way faster. The less time I could spend on destruction the better. My gears were itching to turn the corner and get back to positive progress.
Once all the blocks were separated and stacked into a pile it was time to rethink my direction. Now that I had eliminated the use of outside fabrics, other than solids, I needed to find a way to be resourceful. The amount of fabrics included in the scrap bag was, for obvious reasons, limited so there was no room for wastefulness. I have been reading Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. On page 67 she talks about “Making Do.” Let me quote her words:
More often that not, contemporary quilt makers collect a lot of fabric. On the surface, this may seem like a design advantage, but in actuality, this abundance of choice can become overwhelming. On the flip side, when you are forced to innovate with what you have and you do not have a lot, your improvisational skills are honed. One way to create the aesthetic opportunity to make do, even if your fabric stash is hefty, is to purposely limit your fabric amounts on the tight side at the outset of a project.
Note: the emphasis added to selected words in the quote is of my doing.
What’s the Big Deal?
I am so totally guilty of “collecting a lot of fabric.” I always thought the quilter that died with the largest fabric stash won! Just kidding! 🙂 My huge inventory can be overwhelming. With so many choices it’s often hard to eliminate options. It’s like trying to eliminate someone from a team or a group. Even though the dirty deed needs to be done it is hard because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I can just see you rolling your 👀. You are thinking, “What’s the big deal?” Fabric is an inanimate object. It is incapable of emotion. I know, I know. sigh! But in my little head it does. 🙂
Anyway, getting back to the quote, not only had I made the decision, at the onset, to try and use all of the fabrics in the scrap bag, but I had also now added the challenge to make do or limit my fabric options. This meant I had to get creative. There were obvious holes that needed plugging in my design and my scrap inventory was drastically low. So, get creative I did. Here’s a photo of my quilt in its current state.
You may notice quite a few differences. This is what changed:
The print fabrics that were not included in the scrap bag have, for the most part, been eliminated.
Some of the blocks have been redesigned. Especially the one in the top left corner.
Twelve blocks are brand new.
99.9% of the new blocks were created with fabric from the scrap bag and added solids.
The block arrangement is different.
I must admit I had fun creating the additional segments. I was bound and determined to use as many of the tiny scraps as possible so I drew upon my knowledge of quilting to even make a paper pieced block.
There were times when I got really nervous about not having enough fabric. This happened at the very end. My inventory was so low. All I really had left were itty-bitty scraps and of course my solids. Just when I thought I was going to have to resort to the solids I happened to pull out my rolling cart. There in the top bin was a fairly good sized piece of useable fabric. Oh how I breathed a sigh of relief! My discovery meant I would be able to fill in all the gaps and finally call my piece finished.
To coin an American phrase, “The Goose is Cooked.” If you are not familiar with this idiom let me put it another way, “It is FINISHED.” Hip Hip Hooray! Yippie! 🙂 Does that help?
Throughout all of these six posts I have yet to explain the origin of the name. Though, you haven’t asked either!!! What gives with that? Aren’t you curious? 🙂 Don’t think I haven’t been dieing to tell you. I have but I thought I would wait until the end. So, this is where it came from.
When I purchased my small bag of fabric scraps there was a ribbon tied around the top of the bag cinching it tightly closed. Attached to that ribbon was this tiny piece of paper. As you can tell from the photo the words “Bits and Pieces” were written in ink. This little tag gave me the inspiration to call my newest art piece Bits and Pieces. Kind of corny I know. But hey, nobody ever said names had to come from a magical place.
Gotta Do It!
I’ve had a great time sharing the creative journey I took to birth Bits and Piece, AQ # 33. Along the way there were some highs and some lows but in the end I was triumphant. I managed to almost accomplish my goal of limiting my fabrics. I’m pretty proud of my “gotta do it” determination. My improvisational brain is going to take a bit of a breather for a while. I think I’ve worn myself out. 🙂
Let me pose the often heard phrase, “So what do you think?” Is it a keeper or not?
Thank you for sharing this time with me! I look forward to our frequent visits. Who knows where my art-filled adventure will take us next?
Oh, I almost forgot! You are probably wanting to read the first five posts in this journey. Let me share them with you.
Who knew that I would still be working on AQ # 33: Bits and Pieces after five days? As I have said before this is a very l o n g, s l o w process. At times it almost seems painful. But to coin a famous phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
For those that just joined me let me provide links to the other four posts.
At the end of day four this is how my art piece looked. Day five presented itself a bit differently. I still did more, “What if,” manipulation but I focused most of my time on actually stitching the blocks together into sections.
Shown above is another version of my block arrangement. If you compare the two photos you can see that most of the rearranging took place in the bottom half of the art piece. The changes were pretty subtle.
By the time I got to this stage I had begun stitching blocks together. This too takes some thought. Obviously the blocks are all different sizes. Their variety of measurements makes it interesting to fit them together. It is kind of like assembling a puzzle. The only difference is that I don’t have a box cover to refer to. I have to make it all up as I go.
By the time I had reached this point my piece had been stitched together into two separate segments. The one on the left takes in the majority of the individual blocks. The one on the right has not yet been attached because it is a different size. I also still have to figure out how to attach the gold block with the thin center strip.
The made-fabric to the left of the gold block and the gold, flashy fabric below are being auditioned as possible candidates. I also have another possible add-in below the right section. (Does that all sound like mumbo jumbo?) I hope I haven’t lost you?
Lots of Progress
Today was a day filled with loads of progress. By the time my piece had reached this stage I was exhausted. I needed to take a break to ponder my next step so day five ended here.
From Trash to Treasure
Hard to believe this all started from one bag of scraps!
Isn’t it amazing how someone else’s trash can become another person’s treasure!
This brings to a close another day in the life of Bits and Pieces. Stay tuned for another adventure.
Thank you for showing your support by visiting my blog. Your interest is the jewel that makes my journey meaningful! See you next time!