baby quilt (over on channel two)

i’ve picked back up on my baby quilt project.  it took me ages to get more ballpoint needles after i broke the last one, but i’m back, and it’s getting close to finished.

i’m still going down to the studio when jim comes up to make dinner, but i’ve spent a lot of the last two days finishing the edges of the quilt.

when i left it (let me look back) in early march, i was putting on the border.  i ran out of needles most of the way thru closing the binding on the third side, so i finished up the closing yesterday.  then i turned it over and saw how badly i’d caught all the layers in the binding in how many places (lots of gaps, lots of places to tear out stitches and start again), and corrected all that.  and then i sewed down the edges of all the tops  (i took baby clothes top halves and stuck the clothing down at the edges), leaving the zipper or snap and neck closure free to be fiddled with by some baby’s hands.

that was the end of the pre-quilting part.  and, actually, in sewing down the edges of the tops, i actually was quilting.  but the real quilting begins with the next step.

i’m not willing at this stage to put the whole thing in the washer, because the batting isn’t fastened by quilting stitches yet.  but it’s filthy.  the cats have made a cozy home out of the quilt on the sewing machine as it sat there for a couple of weeks until i went out and got needles.  so it’s black with black cat hair in places.  it’ll all come out in the wash, of course, but i’m going to clean the surface with a damp rag and then continue with the quilting steps.

for the quiltling part, i’m using the addition of yet another layer as the excuse for the quilting pattern.  i’ve reserved a bunch of clothes to arrange on the face of the quilt top and then sew them thru the three layers of the quilt using applique.

the issue is how to arrange the clothes.  i have two feety pajamas and two newborn bubble suits, another bubble suit and two pants and shirt sets.

i thought to have a crowd, but not to arrange them in rows.  so first i put them lengthwise and crosswise, but that was boring.  next i tried them catty-corner on the top, and that was more interesting.  but i’m not sure i like them just laying there in a cross pattern.  it looks good from a distance, however.

so then i tried them running around in a circle, and this is much more dynamic, but it’s not easy to make it look good.  especially from a distance.

so – anybody have any suggestions?


project – a baby quilt

if you’d like to see a collection of the paintings of 2009, please scroll down to the next post.  i had directed a gallery director here to see my work, and just told him to go to the top page, because sure i haven’t done any art for a few months, and wasn’t planning on getting it together for at least another week or so, after jim’s show opens and we can get back to normal.

but hey, shit happens.  it turns out that some people i know who’ve been trying to get pregnant finally did it, and so i just had to whip out my stash and start grooving on a design.  i’ve been collecting baby clothes for a baby quilt for several years now.  (i’ve also got the personal one to be made out of all of my grandson’s clothes, and that’s a whole nother project i haven’t even started to think about.)

for this baby quilt i started out at the thrift store, buying all the good-feeling cotton baby things i could find.  i went to last chance thrift store here in atlanta, and of course went on half-price monday, where most things were tagged at 99 cents.  an armload cost me nine dollars.  whoo.  it’s good to do fabric art.  there’s always a supply of fabric.

soft cotton baby things.  when i collected the first batch of baby things, several years ago, i got a wild hair and decided to take the rotary cutter to them.  so i have a whole bag of two or three inch strips of shoulders and sleeves, say, or leg and foot.  i’ve got whole strips of snap fronts.  all in cute little baby prints and lovely soft cotton fabric.

when i went out to the thrift store this morning, i got loads more baby clothes, and this time i’ve got them whole.  so i’ve got 4 head-to-toe suits that i could make into kids playing, if i wanted to (hands and heads are the only things i’d need to make up), and i’ve got a range of tops and pants, and even a little dress.  i also picked up a few baby blankets to use as something.

i have no idea what i’m going to do with it.  the quilt will be a crib quilt, which is 45×60.  i’m going to order the flannel back from dharma this evening.  i’ve got to figure out what in the world i’m going to do with the cut-up bits.  how many shoulders, how many feet?  hey, i could do a crowd scene with them, that’s one thing.  or i could somehow sew them together and strip them.  they’ll add lots of texture, that’s for sure.  and it’s probably best if i stick to zippers and snaps and never mind the buttons that would freak out any first time mother.

i was going to make the first baby quilt for my eldest younger brother, who has two kids at this point.  but they kind of like designer things, and if they wouldn’t throw out what i made, they certainly wouldn’t use it on the kids’ beds.   but this unnamed person who’s pregnant is an artist themself, and will appreciate my efforts better.  so i just have to watch out about going overboard with the design, and it’ll turn out great.

mom’s quilt 3

just an aside.  i’ve been talking to my mom about some of the fabric i’m using.  there’s a piece of needlework she’s not sure she wants me to use.  i’ve offered to use it whole and not cut it into pieces (it would unravel), but she insists it was made by a long-dead relative of hers for use as a cushion on a particular antique bench seat.  but mom’s not going to reupholster the bench herself, and she’s not going to pay for it, and if i give it back to her it’ll just disappear into some drawer or closet and she’ll never see it again.  on the other hand, worked into a quilt, she can run her fingers over it every day.  which, i understand, she might not want to be reminded…

another thing is that mom just asked if she got any approval over the design.  i didn’t laugh, and i’ll show her what i’m showing you all, but unless she can come up with a better intuitive design, it’s going to be made the way it occurs to me to make.  i had loads of issues with my sister trying to design her dragon quilt from another continent.  her suggestions were good and i mostly followed them, but then she was trading me for the quilt and felt she had a right to get it the way she wanted.  but this is a gift to my mom, and she’s getting it the way it comes out.  sounds cruel, i know.  but i’m the artist and i’m the one doing all the work, and she’s going to love it simply because it represents all the kids and all those years, and so a little quibbling on the design end isn’t going to make any difference.  or she’ll hate it and it’ll go into a closet.

the main point of making a quilt for my mom is to give her something she wouldn’t be able to buy, something that means something (tho what it means isn’t my responsibility).  and this is motivation enough for me, something that might make her happy.  but i can’t do it on her terms.  i can’t do it like a work for hire.  it’s got to come from my heart, hand, and brain, and be a present from me, a work of my special unique talents.

so sorry mom, please don’t suggest a traditional patchwork quilt.  you wouldn’t love it, because i’d hate it, and that vibe would come thru every inch of quilting.

mom’s quilt 4

it’s decided.  since i’m going to be spending a lot of my time writing during the month of november, on account of i’m doing the nanowrimo 50,000-word novel-a-thon again.  it’ll take up all my time.  so i’m going to be devoting all my other time to doing up mom’s quilt.

i  finally told her today, on the phone.  hey mom remember all those old clothes that i had davie take from the laundry room in the basement?  remember how you didn’t really agree with him taking them, but that we went over every piece and you took back anything inappropriate (altho i don’t remember that part)?

guess what i’m doing.  well, right now i’m using the seam ripper on that old velour shirt i used to love wearing back when i was 12.  dad took a picture of me in it.  red white and blue horizontal stripes, long sleeved?  i practically lived in it.  of course you remember.  and why am i ripping apart old ripe, moldy clothes?  because i’m going to make you a quilt from all these clothes, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me (evil laugh).

see, when i told mom i was going to do this some months ago, she said okay.  but mom’s got adhd and nothing sticks in her head unless she writes it down (i know what that’s like).  and when i told her i was going to turn that fabric into a quilt, she told me not to; she was quite put out.  the last thing she needed was one more thing.

so i contented myself with washing a bag of clothes in vinegar half a dozen times to get the mold out (didn’t work).  then i spent a couple of months idly picking apart the seams of the clothes, leaving a lot of seams for later just in case.  but  i decided not to do another painting but to do something mindless like piecing and pinning (hah) as a break from writing.  and so i got out the clothes and found my large seam ripper and now i’m nearing the end of unpiecing my fabric, and will be ready to start deciding on the overall pattern.

so i called mom and told her what i was doing.  maybe she can follow the progress here on the blog.  she’s got an i-pod that’s the shit, and we often trade articles back and forth.  it’s fun.  a bonding thing.  and she was okay with my telling her i was making her something with her old clothes.  and so i’m real excited to be starting this project, which might just end up being her xmas present, please god.

okay then.  i’ve got a tidy pile of clothes that have been completely separated seam from seam, into sleeves, and shirt fronts, and collars, and unhemmed pants.  baby things.  toddler things.  5-6 year old stuff, pre-teen things, and those capri pants from the 80s, who wore those?  did i?  did suzie?  not lisa, surely.  and it’s really strange to find old navy (or is it gap?)  labels in stuff.  we were kids and teenagers back in the 70s, and i thought the gap was newish.

and the difference in quality.  some of the things, Ts and knitted fabrics (like that velour shirt) just rip apart at the seams.  and then there are clothes that were sewn by hand in places.  and a brooks brothers shirt with rip-proofing in the seams.  and remember that wool jacket i used to wear, say when i was 10?  green plaid.  it was exceedingly well built, and it also shrunk right down in the washing.  now it’s green plaid felt, and i’ll try to put it in places where you won’t be abrading your hands at night.

the secret of this quilt is not the conformity to tradition, because i’m well known for tossing tradition into a pile and lighting a corner of it.  i’m an iconoclast, proud follower in my dad’s footsteps.  so instead of doing a patchwork quilt of some description – where i have to make 500 triangles all the same size and sew them together the exact same way – instead of the regular way, i’m going to throw caution to the winds and make things hundreds of times more difficult by doing it all by eye.  it’ll turn out to be an art quilt, or it’ll turn out to be a disaster.  but really, you can’t go wrong with a quilt.

i’ve got nice kona cotton for the backing, and quilter’s flannel for the middle.  but i’m kind of thinking of using quilter’s flannel for the top and appliqueing fabric to it.  in that case, i’d use an old sheet as the middle.  it’s a time honored tradition, one i’m pleased to follow.  because it makes sense and it’s cheap.  what’s out of sight and never coming to light  has different requirements than something you’re going to see and feel.

the predominant color scheme of the clothing collected from the over-the-years pile in Mom’s Laundry Room (est. 1960) is blue, with red accents.  strangely enough, a lot of the blues are the same blues.  and the reds are largely the same reds.  some things never change in kids’ clothes.  i’d like to study the history of color in clothing styles.

so i’m thinking that maybe i could do the backing in shades of blue.  blue turning to violet blue.  i could easily do it with a scrunch dye – stuff the material in a plastic tub and pour in purple and cyan in various places.  then cover with water and soda ash, and let it sit overnight.  eh voila.

it’s getting late now, we’ve got to walk the dogs.  it’s been foggy and rainy all day, and we’re going to eat some salmon and watch the rest of our movie (we can only stand to watch half a movie at a sitting).

for mom’s quilt 3 see here

mom’s quilt 2

i’m up at 4:30 in the morning.  i’m up because there are a bunch of college kids renting the house opposite, and as long as the weather lasts they’ll be damned if they’re not out drinking on the porch at 4 in the morning.  the porch echoes.  they hoot and howl.  i called the police on them and am now sleepless, waiting for them to be chased inside by the cops.  maybe they’re vampires and i’m doing everyone a favor.  not that anyone else is up at this time.

anyway.  today i took my tape measure and marked out 112 by 97 on the floor in bits of masking tape, including a central piece where i sorta kinda measured the middle of the quilt.  it’s not going to be that important where the exact middle is, unlike the quilt i did for my sister.  this quilt is going to be a riot to begin with, so precision isn’t necessary in designing it.

i took all the cute stuff out of the stack of moldy clothes from my mom’s basement.  i had a wee baby dress of red velvet, including a pair of old fashioned diaper pants (matching plastic diaper covers).  there were two little dresses for toddlers, and two dresses for older kids, maybe 4 years old.  there was a set of toddler overalls – short pants, a set of 4 year old overalls – long pants, and a pair of jeans for maybe a 6 year old.  i also got out a stripy velour shirt i used to love, a toddler shirt with buttons, and a plaid shirt that i think i sewed a pocket on (hating things without pockets, i must have done one of my first sewing projects on it.  unless it was my sister.  but my sister would have gotten mom to buy her a different shirt, and she wasn’t the type to get creative with fabric.)

there are two pieces of tapestry in the collection.  i’m pretty sure mom is going to have a fit about those, but they never got turned into footstool cushions, they’re just embroidery on linen.  one is flowers on black, the other is flowers on blue.  the big one is 2 feet across, the small one 18 inches.  so they’re substantial chunks of landscape.  i know what to do with the large one, but what can i do with the small one?  maybe put it on the under side?  i can’t cut it, because there go all the embroidery stitches, so i have to use it whole.  and the design i’m working with at the moment isn’t very happy with that.

i started out with the large black flower tapestry in the middle.  then i arranged the dresses around them, necks to center.  then i arranged the pants around them, waists to center.  then i put the shirts around them, their necks pointing to the edges.  and suddenly i was out of room.


i’ve got twice as much fabric that i haven’t placed onto the floor.  pants, shirts, t-shirts, a wool jacket, a table runner, a scarf.  the t-shirts and the jacket have textures unlike the rest of the fabrics.  what i need is a way to use all those fabrics as part of the background of the quilt.  and i’ve got to find a way of doing it that doesn’t involve a lot of visual confusion, the way layering a shirt on a pair of pants with part of a jacket sleeve cutting thru would be confusing.  it’s an option i might take with some other quilt, like the jeans quilt of my dreams.  but i think for this one i want the clothes on top to be the main elements, and need the background to homogenize underneath.

so i figure i could strip all the rest of the fabrics together.  that is, cut the clothes into a bunch of strips and sew them together length to length, until i have sewn a piece of fabric.  then i can cut this into strips, and sew it back up another way.  and so on.  if i do it long enough, i will have a lot of very small jewel-like pieces sewn together, and this will effectively spread out the color over the background.  i think it will work nicely.  it’ll mean a lot of cutting and sewing, and that’s where straight lines will be important.  i’m not that good at using the rotary cutter to make absolutely straight lines, but i’m going to fudge it during the quilting process.  anything that isn’t lying well at that point will simply be hammered down with sewing needles. (an added benefit is that anything too weak to hold up on its own (remember, 30 years or more of being moldy does not make for great fiber strength.  even the tapestries are useless for their original intention at this point.)   i’m thinking i should use all the fabric to strip quilt the background except for the scarf and the table runner that i’ll need for the border.  or maybe i will use that blackout material the musicians across the street (not the college students) just threw out.  it’s velvet.

the great thing about these quilts, about everything i make, really, is that you can go ahead and toss the thing in the washer.  it’ll bleed, sure.  it was designed to bleed.   it was meant so that every piece interacts with every other piece, and what better way to do that than to share colors?

i’d be wise to wait a few days before i start cutting up fabric.  you never know, i could easily change my mind about the design.  originally i thought i would use the clothes in a sort of tableau of children’s activities.  but i lack a lot more clothes for that, or specifically, toddler and kid shirts to go with the pants, and socks and underwear and things like that.

but one thing i can go ahead and do is rip a few seams in the clothes that are going to stay whole.  or stay half, anyway.  i get a front and a back half out of all these clothes.  that’s a dozen or more pieces of clothing, and i’m going to turn it into twice that.  so what will happen to my design then?  i’m not sure i can fit backs and fronts into the design.  but i might be able to use parts of the clothes, like a sleeve or a pants leg, which would add to the starburst effect.

or i could put them on the underside and end up with a double sided but lumpy quilt.  i can’t imagine it would NOT be lumpy, with so many different weights of fabric, and things like buttons and hooks and zippers and pockets sewn in.  it would make the quiltling process a bit more difficult if i were to make a double sided quilt, because i would risk trying to run the needle thru a zipper, say.  i had some problems with breaking needles the last project i did that included obstacles.  that was that corset, which i gave up as a bad idea.  the thought of me going into production on something as complex as a corset just floors me now, when before it seemed like a great money making idea.  what a fool i am sometimes.

i’ll save this, because the photograph is downstairs still in the camera, and publish it tomorrow when i’ve had a chance to attach the picture.  perhaps the boys have gone to bed at this point.  i don’t know.  last week there was a 24 hour bike race, and the musicians were on their front porch all night cheering them on.  i called the cops on them, but it did no good at all.   i think i wrote a blog entry then, too.

bow i have to go to dharmatrading and get flannel for the middle, and wide cotton for the backing.

for mom’s quilt 1 see here.

project: a quilt for mom

she’ll fight me on this one.

a couple of years ago i asked my middle-younger brother davie to grab me a couple of plastic bags full of old clothes from mom’s basement. old, moldy things outgrown twenty or thirty years ago that mom never could bear to throw away.

he brought them to me when he and mom came to visit, and i cleared everything with her, but she won’t remember that, and will want me to uncut and unpiece everything. well, i won’t do it. she’s been forbidding me to do anything with the fabrics, using as her excuse the fact that she has nowhere decent to put it, and wants me to wait until she’s cleaned up the house, which is when hell freezes over (but with global warming you never know, so it could happen). but i’m not waiting. in fact, i’m disobeying almost every one of mom’s precepts about this quilt. which is about par for the course, eh?

i washed them in vinegar and borax a few times, and the mold smell is as out as it’s going to be. a good airing will help. i separated all the clothes into categories (type of clothing, rather than color or size of print or fabric type) and photographed everything. now i’m going to print out the photos and cut the clothes out and start playing around with them as patterns.

this isn’t going to be your typical quilt. no boxes and stars and crazy stitching for me. nope, i’m going to be using the clothes to tell a tale. just what isn’t apparent to me yet, but i can invision this:

a picture quilt, featuring a bunch of little kids runnning around playing hide and seek or kick ball or some such kid game, with backyard trees etcetera.

only for the little kids, i’m going to be using little dresses and little pants. i’m going to separate the clothes into front and back, and use one side or the other to represent the little kids all by themselves. with the rest of the fabrics i guess i’ll make other picture elements and borders and things.

i’ll use flannel in the middle, and a nice cotton back, and she’ll have it big enough to fit her king-size bed, which means 104×93.

here’s what i have to work with:


susie’s xmas present

since she doesn’t read my blogs, she won’t notice before xmas, so i’m safe in putting it up now.

when we were at the beach this summer, my sister got me to make her a sea turtles crawling out to sea t-shirt. so when jim designed me a sea turtle scarf this fall, i figured i just might as well make an extra one because susie was going to want it. so.

it’s a design that uses a lot of wavy waves, and a lot of sandy sand, with seashells and sea turtles on the shore and marching out to sea. not the seashells, marching. so i was going to get to use my favoriet technique – karo syrup resist – and i was going to have to figure out how to do sand.

fotunately, i had on hand a jar of presist, which is some sort of paste resist (tastes like boiled detergent, but they never tell you what’s in these things) that i had never tried. so.

i got out a sea sponge, and put down a layer of resist, sponging it on haphazardly all over the sand area. at the same time, i put in my water resist lines, very gloopy sugar syrup that i then let dry. when the syrup was down, i started putting in various blues for the water, and left a strip of white to represent the shoreline foam.

 after dousing the sand with water

over the presist, i put in a golden yellow with a brush, trying to avoid the resist where possible. i didn’t yet understand the properties of this resist, and found that it was very reactive with water, which means that it wouldn’t hold at all if i brushed dye over it. but after the stuff was dry i couldn’t tell where the resist was, so oh well.

i sponged resist onto it on top of the first resist and the first dye, and when it was dry i put a deeper brown color over the first bits. when that was dry, i sponged on the resist again, and put purple bits on. it looked very cool, but more like a pebble beach than a sandy one, and sea turtles, i’m sorry, don’t like to make their nests in rock. so.

 running dye

then i turned my attention to the turtles and the shells. they’d been outlined in regular water-based resist (rice paste???), and i painted the turtles green, and the shells red, with various water color type treatments.

 ain’t it beautiful, suze?

and then i put water all over the water, violating the resist lines. this had the effect of dissolving the sugar syrup, and the dye moved in tendrils and swirls into new areas, making a wonderful loose mess of color. that’s why i love this technique.

 look how the dye bleeds across the sugar resist

over the sand, i washed clear water, hoping to move the resist in a similar way. it didn’t do anything like the sugar syrup did when i put water on it, but instead washed everything into soft blended color. it kind of washed the color out, actually, but since i was aiming for a sand look, that was alright. for the four scarves i did for sale, my sand goes thru several different versions, depending on how bold i was being with both resist and color, and by the time i got to my sister’s scarf, i was about at my limit for going outside the lines.

once i had the scarf steamed and saw how it all came out, i wondered what i should do with it next. my sister isn’t the type to actually wear my scarves. she hangs them instead. so i figured why not make a backing for it and give her a wall hanging. so.

 mostly finished

i was over in marietta a while later, showing a friend this great quiting fabric store, and ran across a batik of sea turtles. it was in lime green, which i detest, but i figured i could overdye it and make it more green-blue. but i overdid the overdyeing, and it came out bluish black. so i tosseed it in the wash and cycled it thru three or five hot water washes, and it faded out enough to where you could actually see the sea turtles. so that was okay.

 batik backing, note the green turtles. the original fabric was yucky lime green. the outlines are quilting of objects in the scarf.

i had to cut and piece the batik, and i had just enough flannel to cut out the batting, so i sandwiched the thing together and started sewing. i was undecided whether to quilt the waves, and in the end i just quilted the turtles and the shells and left it at that.

now i have to figure out when i can mail it so that she’ll get it for xmas. if i sent it to her now, or in early november, she’ll just open it, and the xmas present part will be ruined. if i send it to her husband, he’ll put it aside and leave it at work. timing is everything.

 finished wall hanging with turtles and shells quilted

and to my other sister, who does read my blogs — lise, i’ve still got to fix something about the way your wall hanging hangs, and then it’ll be on the slow boat to you. and i must tell you, allison doesn’t think it’s very good at all, but susie loves it.