Archive for August, 2012

Here at last is the foolhardy project on which I’ve been agonizingly working since the idea came to me in December. It comprises 12  6″ blocks, 10 of which are CQ blocks, on which I’ve appliquéd the floral arrangement. This is by far the craziest crazy quilt project I’ve done. In fact, I have felt crazy all the while I’ve been working on it.

In December, hoping to get myself out of the stitching doldrums, I signed up for the CQJP. I wanted to make 12 blocks that could be joined into a quilt–something I’ve never done. Simply seeking a color scheme, I turned to my favorite painter, Cézanne, and chose two paintings just for the colors, and began acquiring fabrics. I’ve already posted about this process, showing the two paintings that inspired me.

Meanwhile, somehow the cockamamie idea came to me of putting the floral arrangement on top of the landscape. I tried out the idea on my computer with this result.

And decided I wanted somehow to use this image as the basis for my quilt design. But how?

After spending weeks fretting about it, trying out design ideas with pencil, paper, and computer, receiving ideas from my dear friend Maureen and her daughter, thinking of lots of ways I could work with it, all of which were beyond my capabilities to execute with fabric and thread; I came back to this image as the one I wanted to reproduce.

Then came months of trials and false starts with constant self-doubt.

I sized the image to scale for six-inch blocks and made a grid on it.

Then I printed each block actual size–six inches square, cut out the paper blocks, and tacked them to my design board to see how it looked and to think about how I might stitch each block.

With the paper blocks, I’m showing two sheets of cotton fabric on which I had printed, trying to get the right blue for the sky. Later, still not knowing how on earth I was going to make this, I bought many six-inch wide pieces of cotton fabric, including just the right sky-blue,  at the fabulous shop here on Vashon, Island Quilter.

Initially, having gotten this far, I wanted to stitch the whole image on 12 blocks. Repeatedly, I tried to design blocks that would capture, in a more abstract way, the collage I had made of the two paintings. For example, with tracing paper over the printed image, I drew some block designs.

Using my printed paper six-inch blocks, I contemplated how I might stitch each of them.

After more fretting and trial cloths, I decided to make the landscape in CQ blocks and then figure out how to add the floral arrangement.

Using my paper blocks as guides, I cut patches one at a time and pinned them on all 12 blocks. Here’s one of them.

As I pinned the blocks, I tacked them to the design board. I wanted to make sure they matched up before hand-basting them.

After some adjusting, I pinned a paper print of the floral arrangement on top, to see how that looked. It’s shown here with fabrics I thought I might use for the floral arrangement.

Okay so far. The next step was embellishing each of the blocks. Not wanting to detract from the floral image, I simply put variations of buttonhole stitches over seams in pearl cotton threads that nearly matched the fabric patches.

To make sure the embellished blocks lined up correctly, I hand-basted them together, pinned the quilt to the board, made some adjustments, then machine-stitched them together. (The two blue blocks in the middle were not patched, as I expected them to be completely covered by the flowers.)

With the landscape complete, how was I going to add the floral image?

Appliqué was what I had decided to do. As I’ve already posted, I set about learning various methods of appliqué. I studied books on Baltimore album quilts and discovered Elly Sienkiewicz. Had it not been for Elly, I think this project would have ended here. Elly sanctioned the use of glue! One of her methods of preparing pieces for appliqué was by pasting the hems before stitching the pieces to the background. I practiced all of Elly’s methods, because I still didn’t know how I was going to make this idea work.

Also, I tried several ways of making flowers–both with stitching and with appliqué, without producing flowers acceptable to me, not the look I was trying to achieve, not sufficiently faithful to Cézanne’s rendering. Further, I could not find an acceptable blue for the vase. I even tried painting fabric.

In the end, I enlarged the vase image in my computer and printed it on cloth. After fusing it to fusible fleece to give it some body, I appliquéd it to my quilt, outlining it with chain stitching. First step, easiest to do, easy to remove if necessary. I decided to keep it.

Here you can see the vase with some paper and some fabric pieces pinned in place. (I went through a complete set of ink cartridges working on this.)

After a lot more dithering and worrying about the flowers (the leaves were easy), I enlarged and printed them on fabric, too. I fused interfacing to all the leaves and flowers, then glued the hems to the interfacing before appliquéing them to the quilt. Believe me, folks, this was really crazy work. I made 24 large leaves and 34 tiny leaves of four different green fabrics. I printed each flower separately, fused the flowers to fleece, then glued their hems. Crazy. Hours and hours. Below, some glued hems. I used No-Sew.

Then I appliquéd them to the quilt landscape. Because Elly Sienkiewicz said that the original Baltimore album quilt makers sometimes pasted their pieces before stitching them in place, that’s what I did. And I couldn’t have done it otherwise. I needed to see the whole arrangement before starting to stitch. With No-Sew, I could move pieces around until I was satisfied. Attaching all those leaves in the middle of the quilt with blind stitch using invisible thread and adding feather-stitched veins was quite a job.

The blue flowers are pieces of fabric gathered around fusible interfacing for dimension. To figure out where to put branches, I threaded a needle with a long length of #5 cotton pearl and played with its placement. When I was satisfied, I drew on the fabric with a soluble marker the lines created by the thread, then chain stitched and stem stitched them. The sky has buttonholed herringbone over the seams. The sea–scroll stitch, I think.

Done. At least the picture part, the patchwork and appliqué part, is done. I haven’t a clue as to how to finish this piece. Border? Backing? Framed?

I’m not even sure it’s worth finishing. All the months I’ve been obsessed with this project, either working on it or worrying about it, I’ve been wondering whether it was worth continuing. I am definitely not showing any more close-ups. This is rough beginner work–effortfully amateurish. I needed something to work on, so I just kept going. Its main purpose was therapy.

I’m going to find something else to do for a while.

I don’t see how I could submit this piece to CQJP. Anyhow, since I’ve sent three of my trial blocks and here are ten more CQ blocks, I have met the challenge.

And paid homage to Cézanne.

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