Nellie"s Needles

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finding Elvis

Lee and I were in a shop in Kailua Kona, Hawaii looking at tikis.

The background music in the store was Elvis singing Christmas songs. So, of course, the subject of the king came up and Lee wondered if there were any tikis featuring his image. To Lee's dismay ... and my delight ... there were none that could be purchased. However, we were told there was an Elvis tiki in a bar called Lu Lu's at the other end of town. So we walked ... and walked ... and walked until we found it.
The king was heavily adorned with dollar bills along with everything else in that bar, but sure enough we had found him.
On the way out I spied what looked like the top of Elvis's pompadour sticking up above a partition. There was just enough room to take this photo of an "unadorned" Elvis tiki through a crack between the boards. 
Our quest was complete. We had truly found the BIG Kahuna.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

Lee and I are having a wonderful holiday here in Hawaii on the BIG island. Last evening our older son's family and we decorated a tree in the condo we're renting.

I had packed origami papers and scissors with the intent of decorating some form of vegetation to serve as our Christmas tree. We had so much fun making the ornaments that we adorned the tree in the dining area, too.
We are feeling very comfortable in our lovely home for the next 2 weeks.  Lee and I have already established a routine of having our early morning coffee on a lanai outside of our bedroom overlooking the ocean to watch the world wake up. We then have a morning swim with all the family before taking off to see parts of this beautiful and fascinating island. Yesterday we purchased some plastic glasses so we can add the tradition of watching the sun set with cocktails in the pool area and another swim before dinner.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Scrap Quilt

Just playing .....

Right now it's only a pieced top. It will get quilted when somebody needs a quilt. Making it was one of those spur of the moment projects inspired by a baggy of scraps given to me recently by Alison, a fellow Thursday bee member.

She never dreamed that I would piece all the tiny triangles she had trimmed from blocks into the squares that became the centers of my scrappy blocks. In the photo below is one of the finished blocks. That pile of trimmings from a number of blocks are now in a bag of supplies for future "ortwork" pieces.

The block in the above picture is the smaller of the two sizes made. I experimented with their arrangement on the design wall. The main point being to see the effect ... the movement ... of those white triangles.

I chose to surround the larger squares with shades of neutral fabrics to make those bits of color sparkle and stand out. The playful patterning of the white dots on the black sashing fabric with the smaller blocks in corners create a strong grid pattern that holds all those dancing triangles and sparkling colors together.

I couldn't come up with a machine quilting pattern that pleased me on this sample square. I played with couching a textured and variegated color yarn around the shapes. To carry through the feeling of playfulness, plus a nod to tradition, I left lengths for ties on the corners. Unless something else that's extraordinary comes to me before this top becomes a quilt, I'm pretty sure the couched yarn will double as the quilting.
Button, Button - 14"x 14"

Very little that I make goes to waste. The outside edge of this piece is finished with couched yarns and an array of buttons from my collection makes an art piece. It will be donated to the Smoky Mountain Quilt Guild to sell at the 2012 quilt show in March.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paula's Quilt

I had in mind for some time that my cyber friend, Paula, needed a quilt. My original thought was to make one for her myself. Then I began to think of a number of other quilters who are also friends of Paula, so had the idea to include them in the creation of this quilt gifted to her over the Thanksgiving weekend.

I had drawn up two different quilt design layouts that were voted on. Once this decision was made, each participant chose a section of the quilt to create. As for the colors and design, each artist was on her own to create whatever is meaningful between herself and Paula. The intent was to give Paula a tangible symbol of our caring about and for her ... to literally give her warmth and comfort.

Here are the individual pieces (and their makers) that comprise the quilt ...
Lisa Call (16"x 20")

Karen Christensen (16" x 16")

 Lynne Croswell (20"x 16")

 Gail Baar  (16" x 10")

 Kim Hambric (28" 10")

Colleen Kole (12" x 44")

Cynthia Wenslow (each 24" x 12")

This is one of the five sections made by me. My intent was for those segments to tie all our creations together. Take note that among my scraps are photos of Paula's art that I printed on fabric. I had fun!
Nellie Durand (16" x 8")

If Paula's other quilting friends had not joined me in this effort, the whole quilt would've been made from scraps like this. That would've been okay. However, it's a much better and more interesting, as well as meaningful quilt composed with all of our pieces.

Here's the back of the quilt ...

The backing fabric for each of the sections was an individual choice, too. I sent everyone a piece of wool bat for their section so each artist could do the quilting on her piece of the quilt. Wool batting is my favorite choice for functional quilts. The ones that I've made with it are my favorite.  They are light-weight, fold up small, and somehow are "just right" no matter the season ... not too warm on a summer's night and warm enough when it's cold.

I constructed the quilt by connecting each our pieces with "butted seams" (placing the raw edges of two sections next to each other and joining one to the other with a wide zig-zag stitch on the machine). Those  zig-zag stitched seams are covered with "sashing tubes" on both sides of the quilt.  The narrow 1/2" flattened tube of fabric (seam pressed open on the under side) was machine appliqued on the back side to cover the zig-zag stitched seam. Then another sashing tube was hand stitched over the joins on the front side.

The irregular and segmented design of this quilt is an ideal format for multiple creative friends to make a perfect quilt for a spunky artist.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Charlie's Quilt

This cuddle quilt was made as a 70th birthday present for a friend. The sashing fabric features cardinals and blue jays which are just two of the many kinds of birds that come to his smorgasbord of feeders. Charlie is also the king of flowers in our neighborhood so there are floral fabrics as well as those that are the colors of flowers in the scrap blocks.

I machine quilted the blocks with an oak leaf design in honor of the huge oak tree just outside his door. The large and small blocks are quilted in the ditch with a clear monofilament thread. A freehand loop pattern stitched with a variegated thread  fills the borders and areas between the scrap blocks.

I like to piece the quilt backs with fabrics that coordinate with the theme and colors of their front side.

This is my favorite kind of quilt to make. When I have a bit of free time, or a friend has gifted me with a bag of wonderful scraps, I like to make up blocks. There is such serendipity in how the patterns and colors come together. With different sashing and corner block fabrics this could easily have been made into a feminine or juvenile  quilt. I'm pleased that my choices are perfect for our male friend who's fond of birds and flowers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monroe Sews

Six-year old great-nephew, Monroe, visited the cottage with his family in mid-August. Two summers ago he was intrigued with my sewing machines. Back then I had let him push the button to cut the threads and lift the needle at the end of seams and had told him he could sew something the next time he came.  Over a period of several days  this summer I had the fun of guiding Monroe in a sewing adventure that took place during afternoon quiet times. We began with this box of fabrics reserved for kid projects.
Monroe spent the first afternoon sorting through them to pick out his favorites to make a quilt for his teddy bear. He only needed twelve, but couldn't let go of a thirteenth piece.

I cut his choices into squares while he went to the beach. The next day he arranged them for the quilt top and we decided a pillow could be made from the extra one.

In the picture above Monroe is getting two blocks ready to sew together. I set up my 50 year old Pfaff ... a good solid machine with basic features that are easy to comprehend, plus a slow speed that is easier to control than my newer machines. He quickly learned how to operate it. Over the next couple of afternoons he stitched all the squares together as well as the quilting lines across the the squares. He also sewed and stuffed the pillow.

Monroe asked if his creation could be a sleeping bag rather than a quilt. Here's the front ... complete with the stuffed pillow that stays in place with velcro ...
 and the back ...
Of course we had to see how the bear liked his sleeping bag outside.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tessa's Birds

My 10-year old granddaughter, Tessa, has a new cousin who had a number of surgeries at the beginning of her life.
There was a bird mobile that had captured her attention during her hospital stays. So Tessa and I made her a quilt this summer featuring birds.
To begin, Tessa drew a bird. The first one was more realistic. Her second drawing of a happy and perky one is the style we chose for Ellie's quilt.
We did a bit of sketching to determine how many birds should be on the quilt ...

 ... and should they be sitting on a wire? or on a hill?

After making that design decision, Tessa helped to figure out the math for the dimension of the quilt. Part of that process was deciding how big each of the 3 birds should be. She drew out the size for each one. Her drawings became the patterns.

Tessa selected fabric for each of the parts ... birds, ground, and sky ... from this drawer full.
Tessa is sewing the birds bodies ...
Her pattern was traced onto a lining fabric which was placed right sides together with the bird fabric. The lining fabric was slashed open to turn the sewn bird's body right side out to make a nice finished edge to applique to the quilt.

Tessa is positioning the birds on the quilt.  Earlier she had drawn the placement of their legs with chalk for me to couch chenille yarn. I had constructed and quilted the background while she had a little beach time. 
She and I are very pleased with the bird's eyes. They're beetles that were fussy cut from fabric with lots of them all over it.

Tessa is most pleased with this delightful, happy little quilt.
We both enjoyed working together to make it for Ellie.  I like to think these happy little birds will cheer and comfort her for many years to come.

Here's a photo of the other side with our label. Tessa had chosen all these fabrics, too.

 note: My method for writing with machine sewing is described here.

Here's a recent photo of Ellie. This happy little girl has got a thing for birds!

An even more recent picture of these two girl cousins sharing a "belly laugh" ... I love this picture.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lillian's Purse

This summer I had the pleasure of helping three children in the Durand family create projects in my studio. The first was my 6-year old great-niece, Lillian, who made this ...
 "Lillian's Purse" - 11"x 12"

When her family visited the cottage in June I was still engrossed in making the small purse quilts. Lillian helped me to make several design decisions for this one ...

...which I ended up calling "Lillian's Purple Purse" ... which is also the title of a book she had recently read.

There was no hesitation when I asked if she'd like make a purse quilt. Lillian keeps a journal that she draws and/or writes in daily. She drew a picture of what she had in mind to make ...

Using her drawing as reference, I sorted through the huge pile of fabric samples that I've been working from to give her a selection of about dozen different pieces to choose from for the body, the flap, and the background.

The purses are constructed by sewing a lining and purse fabric right sides together, then turning them right side out so there is a finished smooth edge to applique onto the background. Lillian sewed those seams following the drawn lines on the lining layer with a bit of verbal guidance from me sitting right behind her at the sewing machine. Later I machine appliqued them in place as well as stitching the edge of the flap so the dark lining showed a bit.

In the meantime, Lillian quilted the background all on her own ...

There was no problem selecting the trimmings for the handle and "closure". However, when it came to choosing the yarns for finishing the outside edge, none that I thought would be good were what she had in mind. I got a "that's IT" when I came up with that variegated chenille one.

Lillian and I both signed the back ...

Lillian is no stranger to Studio North. At about 18-months she was helping her mom, Diane, with the pins for this piece created by Diane during that summer vacation in my studio.

The next two posts will feature each of the other Durand kids projects.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fun Small Shoe Quilts

I took time just before, as well as during, ArtPrize to play ... creating smaller shoe quilts with purses.
"Bleu Belle" Shoe - 18"x 18"

"Harlequin" Shoe - 18"x 18"

"Spice Girl" Shoe - 18"x 18"

"Black Lace Girl" Shoe (18"x 18")

Those four plus one more, the "Red Shoe" (forgot to photograph that one) can be seen ... and purchased for $400 each ... at Good Goods Gallery in Saugatuck, Michigan.

This last one was made as a gift for my interior decorator friend who has been supplying me with expired fabric books and yardage leftovers for years. The tapestry background and framing fabric for the above shoe quilts came from her as well as the backing fabric for each of them.

"Congo Pump for Ebbie" (24"x 18")
This shoe is African themed because Ebbie and her husband had lived there and the room where it is displayed has the flavor of that continent.
I'm in the process of working on yet another smaller shoe quilt. It's a commission that resulted from the person seeing "Imelda's Dream II" at ArtPrize and the one I created for Ebbie. You'll have to wait to see and read more about that one after it's been gifted at Christmas.