Nellie"s Needles

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interpret This - February Reveal

 "Clean Plate Club" (17"x 13")

Interpreting this month's photo was a BIG challenge.  The execution of my interpretation led me to experiment with solutions to get effects that had not previously come up in my work.   Details and photos of the process can be seen at my reveal post on the "Interpret This" blog.

I'd like to share this one that was not included.  I had bought this marking tool by Fons and Porter quite some time ago.  This is the first project that needed marks on dark fabric.  It makes a fine, distinct line with hardly any effort.  I love it.

Right now,  I couldn't say whether I like this interpretation ... or not.  There are moments when it just looks like a glorified placemat with a dirty dish to me.  There are moments I think about cutting it up to use the appealing parts in something else ... postcards maybe.  My mind may change.  It's possible that I might decide it's alright.  There are some pieces that need the perspective of time away from it in order for me to "really see" if it is successful ... or not.

While you're at "Interpret This" be sure to scroll down and see the six interpretations that preceded mine.  There will be one more reveals this evening and then two more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Interpret This" Reveals Begin

Today begins the reveal of interpretations for this picture.  It's a photo taken by Rian on a trip to China.
Go to the Interpret This blog to see a surprising interpretation by Rian, the first reveal.  Check back again in the afternoon for yet another interpretation by Debra.  There will be three more reveals per day on both Friday and Saturday and then the last two on Sunday.

This photo is of the fabrics that I chose to portray my interpretation that will be revealed on Saturday at noon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Fading Memories"

"Fading Memories" (26"x 26")
Since you last saw this piece back in mid-January, it has been finished.  Seed beads are scattered among the colored leaves as well as in the background just off the edge of the muslin overlay, a variegated red rayon yarn strip was couched over the "horizon line", the trim with the glass leaves was added to the bottom edge, as well as the binding and a hanging sleeve have been applied.  There's just the label to make and it'll be ready for entry to the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild Show.

Here are photos of the composition as it progressed.
Initially all the elements came together easily.  However the more I worked on it, the more WORK it became.  This piece started out simply. Just leaves pounded into a piece of muslin fabric on a sunny day up in the mountains.
When I got back to my studio I painted the piece on the back side with the hope of not disturbing the natural images while adding a wash of color to the background. As you can see, I got the background color, but lost definition of those original leaves because the base fabric wasn't treated to hold pigments. To remedy that, I gathered and pounded leaves from my yard to add defined leaf images.
Seed stitches with single strands of neutral colored floss were scattered between the leaves, both to give texture and to attach it to the foundation. In retrospect two strands of floss would've been more effective than one, which had seemed counter productive to keeping it delicate. Two would've been more visually effective for those stitches that spilled over the edges into the background. Then the layering of oil stick pastels and paint began to make this piece work. Which is okay, because layering is a signature of my style.
Diluted black acrylic paint was added which helped. The value contrast between the muslin piece and the background was lessened, but it had also became dull. A touch of contrast was added with black oil stick pastels which made it better. In the meantime, I also gave the leaves added strength and definition with more color and a coat of Acrylic Medium that made them prominent and shiny. This was a good thing. They now had the same shiny texture as the glass leaves on the the trim that hangs along the bottom edge.  The glass seed beads could've been left off.  However, I had just the right colors, amber and brown, so they became reflecting points of light.

Visually this piece looks simple.  However, the construction of it is complex.  Because of its origin plus the great amount of time, effort and thought put into this piece it is being added to our personal art collection.
It is now one of three pieces that rotate being hung on this wall.  The other two are "Ode To the South Pacific", my first crinkle quilt, and "Reflections", an imperfect quilt that I love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Home Is Where the Heart Is" House Block

I spent Sunday making seven of these blocks in response to Beena's call for help.

Making them also served for me to honor a friend who died several years ago. Her husband recently gave me a small stash of fabrics that she had collected to make valentines. You may recognize all those, except for the sky, as being from the late 70's or early 80's. They are perfect for this block and my friend would've loved them. All the while they were being sewn, "Home is where the heart is" kept running through my head.

I used the house block design that Beena made up. She has written out instructions on her page.
However, the strip that contains the roof line is full of tricky angles that I prefer to accomplish with paper piecing.
Several years ago I discovered a trick for easily getting the fabric pieces in the correct position for this technique. This discovery allowed me to see exactly where each fabric needed to be placed PLUS directional prints and the grainlines could be controlled.

Here the seamline falls along an edge of the diamond pattern in the roof fabric. Also, the outside edges of the sky triangle are on the straight of the grain.
It's necessary to have a way to see through the two layers of fabric and paper. A light box is best*, but a well lit window or bright lamp will work.

Fold the paper to the back along the pattern line between the piece that's already there (roof) and the one to be added (sky) to the back.

Over the light box position the seamline fold on the paper where it needs to be on the roof fabric.

Next position the sky fabric under the paper triangle pattern. The grain lines of the fabric and seam allowance can easily be seen. Hold all the layers together in this position until time to sew.

Flip open the paper foundation piece. Stitch along the pattern line.
Fold the paper back again to trim the seam if necessary.

I added the peak of the house next...the red part. Pretend the blue part that's the sky is not yet sewn to the strip.
The paper pattern is folded back along the seam line where the peak will be joined to the roof. The shape and orientation of the fabric for the peak is positioned under that folded back triangle.

I leave the paper folded back until I'm right at the machine to sew the seam through all the layers.
I cannot tell you how many times I've second guessed myself and sewed along the wrong line when that paper has been flipped opened before it was ready to go under the needle. After each seam is stitched, trim any excess from the seamline. Also, press the seam flat.

The whole block was constructed with the paper foundation piecing technique. As you can see, I used newsprint from the Sunday paper. I had stapled 7 layers together and drawn the pattern on the top one. Machine stitching along the lines with no thread in the needle marked the pattern lines in all the paper blocks. It's necessary to indicate either "front" or "back" on those blocks. I do that before taking each one from the pack. I also mark the outside edge of the block so I know where the straight of grain should lie. Those are the arrows you see in the photos above.

Until I discovered this sequence of folding and stitching the foundation piecing method was sooooo frustrating. There were many ripped seams and discarded fabric pieces that I had wrongly thought were the right size or shape. Also, if there were a pattern in the fabric that I wanted to showcase, getting it in the right position was a matter of luck. I was also happy to be able to control the grain line on the outside edges of the block. There are many sources that state the grain line is of no consequence for this method of piecing, but I disagree.

*There is no extra space in either of my studios for a light-box. The solution that works for me is a lamp placed under the acrylic extension for my sewing machine.
A big PLUS for this arrangement is that there are only inches between all that figuring out, folding, and unfolding and sewing the seam.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Valentines For Grandkids

Every year I make special valentines for our four grandkids.

(Two were already sealed in envelopes when I realized no photos had been taken.)

Each has featured photographs of them and me. Initially, the purpose was to use this holiday to be a presence as well as to remind them of our connection since we didn't see each other between Christmas and early summer.

The photography theme has become a tradition. This year the valentines took the form of a Squash Book filled with pictures taken throughout this past year. Here is Winston's.
I found the directions HERE on YouTube. Its construction is a clever and simple concept. Not until I made the first one did I realize that a Squash Book has been hanging in my studio for years. This one is die-cut and features quilt patterns on one side.
I also made the valentines for other family members and friends. One of those is destined to be my online valentine on V day.

Last year's valentines for the kids were in the form of flat snow globes. They can be seen here along with instructions for making them..

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Recently I became aware of "Pages", a fairly recent offering from Blogger. To quote blogger,

"Blogger pages let you to publish static information on stand-alone pages linked from your blog. For example, you can use pages to create an About This Blog page that discusses the evolution of your blog, or a Contact Me page that provides directions, a phone number, and a map to your location."
This feature was brought to my attention by one of the administrators for the "Interpret This" blog, Debra. That blog is now set up for each of the ten participating artists to have a separate "page" to post additional material about the art made to meet the monthly challenges. I've chosen to use my Page to highlight the results of each month. This includes a photo, brief description, and a link to the reveal post on the blog that gives all the details of how I created it.

I've also composed my first page for this blog. It contains the tutorials that I've written through the years in my blog posts. All of those posts with tutorials could be found by clicking "tutorials" in the label section of my sidebar. However, it was necessary to scroll through up to 33 posts to find the post with an instruction that was being looked for. Now the tutorials are categorized according to the type of instruction such as construction, embellishing, designing, quilting, and projects. Each includes a brief description. Clicking on a particular instruction (the title is a live link) takes you directly to the post it's written in. To see how this works and looks, go to my sidebar, scroll down to "NELLIE'S TUTORIALS" and click to see that page. A neat thing about it is that I can add future tutorials just by editing that page. Now, the question is, "How will I use the other 9 pages that Blogger will allow for my blog?"

Information about how to add "Pages" to your blog can be found here.

Friday, February 05, 2010

In the Mail

Woo Hoo! I got mail! And not just ONE gorgeously stitched and beaded butterfly postcard,
but TWO from Karen of "Threadstory"!
How did I get so privileged? Woo Hoo!

Earlier I received a beautiful lino cut hand-printed card from Libby of "The Quilted Craftsman".
That tree confined to this small space conveys a lot of wisdom and power. I'm a fan of the tree Ents as well as tree spirits that are characters in some of my favorite stories ... the Hobbits and Aragon.

I'm pleased to have these pieces that embody my friends creative energy ... energy I'm glad to have in my studio.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Quilt Backings

Making the back for this cuddle quilt is what prompted me to clear the work table. The quilt is destined as a gift for a new great-nephew after being exhibited in this years Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild show in March.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road - 53"x 53"
It's designed to be a story telling quilt. Pick a square to begin, "Once upon a time…" Then follow the yellow brick road to another block for a clue to tell the next part of your story. Continue following segments of the yellow brick road to get to "the end".

I like to make pieced backings. One of my favorite ways features a big diamond in the center. I begin by cutting a square from my chosen fabric. The size of it usually depends on the amount that I have. To figure out the pieces for the backing I begin by positioning that large square on the diagonal in the center of the quilt top.
The next step is to figure out which fabric and how much is required to fill the corners. I have no mathematics for this. I position pieces of fabric over the areas of my quilt top to make sure they're large enough. For this quilt there were yards of the star fabric that I chose for these corners. I determined that a half-square measured by folding the width of the fabric on the diagonal would cover a corner. I had enough yardage that I could cut two big squares to get four triangles.
Note that the straight of the fabric grain on that triangle lies on the outside edge of the quilt.

To begin assembly of the quilt back, align the centers of the middle square and a triangle shaped corner. Pin the edges together taking care not the stretch that bias edge of the triangle. Sew them together ending the seam 1/4" in from the edge of the middle square.
After stitching the seam, cut away one small triangle corner of fabric that extends beyond the edge of the middle square. Then press the seam so it extends away from the middle of the quilt.
Sew the adjacent corner piece to the middle square and the newly cut straight edge of the first corner. Cut off the small triangle from this second corner fabric that extends beyond the middle square and press the seam. Do the same with the next adjacent corner ... sew, cut away small triangle, and press.

Sew the fourth corner to the middle square and the third corner piece. Cut away the excess small triangle. That cut edge will be even with the cut edge of the middle square.
Match the edge of the fourth corner to that of the first corner to complete that partial first seam.
Here is my completed quilt back.

I usually work from my stash and many times the fabric I want to use is a limited quantity so I play with the layouts. Many times those corner areas are pieced because there's not enough of one fabric to fill that area. The quilt back pictured below is made of linen fabrics. I had a great big piece of the center square and a much smaller piece of the fabric used in the corners. White linen was used to fill in gaps.
Again, I determined the layout by laying all the pieces out on my quilt top to make sure there was enough to do the same design in all four corners.

I don't recall if this back is more complex by design or if my yardage was limited. All I know is that it suited the bed-size quilt it's made for.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tips From My Studio

Finally, my table was cleared in preparation to make a backing for a quilt as well as to layer said quilt with batting and that new back. In the process, fabric needed to be pressed. I'd like to take this opportunity to share my solution to NOT having space in my studio for an ironing board.
I use one of those ironing pads that are made to fit a craft table. In the photo above it's folded in half at the end of my table. That's a pretty big pressing area ... much larger than any ironing board top. I could unfold it and use more of the table for pressing, but I've found that to be awkward since I can only walk around two sides of my craft table. When the pad is not in use it gets folded up and stored under the table next to the small rectangular ironing board that you see standing on edge.

That small board is used a lot for pressing seams and is usually out on the corner of the table next to the iron. As for the iron, it's lives on that trivet so it's at the ready when I need it.
I love that portable light fixture. It has a daylight florescent bulb that switches on when the lamp part is swung up from the base.

My other tip is for sewing consistent and straight seams.
I use the 1/4" sewing foot made for my Pfaff machine. I also have the foot that has a metal flange at the outside edge to guide the edge of the fabric against. However, I've found that taping a stack of post-it notes to the bed of my machine and the plain foot works best. Having that long straight edge to align the fabric so far in front of the needle helps to get a very straight and accurate seam. Also, any information that is particular to the project that's being sewn can be written on the top post-it note.

Soon I'll tell you about the quilt that got my table cleared and is being sewn in that last picture.