Saturday, September 27, 2008

Last Elvis Sighting

I'm finally finished with this month's challenge.  I used the color palette Sharon selected and made a small quilt using Elvis Presley as the theme.  Here's Sharon's inspiration piece; the five focus colors included two shades of blue and gold, lavender and brown.

I posted a photo of the front of the quilt earlier in the month.  Here's a close up of one of the tropical stamp appliques I used to fill in some blank spaces.  

The back of the quilt was a single fabric imprinted with a "Blue Hawaii" movie poster.  I quilted around each of the blocks on the front of the quilt.  Here's some detail on the quilting as it appears on the back.  (Stop gagging, all you experienced quilters.  This is only my second try at this medium.)

Of course, I had a fabric mishap.  I nicked a small hole in the movie poster, so in order to cover it up (yes, I made it worse trying to fix it before I stumbled across the method I used for the repair), I appliqued a few more stamps on the back.  Here's the one that's serving as the cover-up for the hole.

I'm big on do-overs.  You know, those post-project analyses where you perseverate on all the things you did wrong or could have done better.  So, just in case any of you are thinking about replicating any part of this project, here's my Elvis quilt review:
  1. I'd use just one batik fabric for the front of the quilt and let the photos speak for themselves.  I'd keep the stamps, though, partly because I like the effect and partly because I really loved appliqueing the stamps.
  2. I'd applique after all the quilting was completed.  Quilting around each stamp on the front of the quilt almost made me leap screaming from the roof of my condo.
  3. I'd choose a plain fabric for the back so that the quilting wouldn't be so obvious (stitching over Elvis' body parts I think is distracting to the overall effect of the poster back.)
  4. I'd put a hanging pocket on it.  There is always that remote possibility that I might be invited to display the quilt at a show - yeah, right!  Maybe after my fiftieth quilt, if I live that long.
And if anyone can tell me how to turn off this annoying underlining, I'd really appreciate it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Elvis Rocks and Rolls Onward

When I decided on the design for the quilt face, I thought a photo album or scrapbook page theme would work really well with the fabric I had chosen.  I thought it would be a pretty simple thing to cut a few squares, sew them together, and make the size match the quilt back, which is the "Blue Hawaii" movie poster fabric I blogged earlier.

Hah!  Lucky for me I am still stupid when it comes to quilting, because the whole thing ended up being a design challenge of major proportions for me.  This is roughly how it went:
  1. Select "photos" from the fabrics and cut them out;
  2. Piece together a sheet of brown shipping paper the size of the movie poster fabric that serves as the backing;
  3. Lay out photos on the paper and draw a preliminary "page" design;
  4. Plow ahead and frame several of the photos with the stamp fabric;
  5. Decide the preliminary design wasn't going to be a go and begin moving fabrics all over the place to make what I had already done work;
  6. Purchase fabric after fabric in innumerable trips to at least three stores to try to get the colors and scale of the fabric prints right;
  7. Stitch, rip, stitch to get the whole piece to measure properly.
I started with the center block - a 16 x 16 inch (41 x 41 cm) square of Elvis with a ukulele.   I cut the tropical postage stamp fabric into strips and made a frame.  That block became the center of the quilt face and I worked out to the edges from there.

I'm sure if I knew how to do paper piecing, this whole thing might have gone more smoothly.  But since I'm the kind of gal who barges ahead with a project hoping it will all fall into place somehow, I just dropped Elvis and his ukulele onto the paper design, arranged the other photos around the central block, selected coordinating fabrics which I hoped would look okay, measured the size of the strips I needed on either side of the central block, and started stitching from the top left corner to the bottom left corner.  Next came the top and bottom central blocks, then the right side panel.

Biggest problem for me after getting the fabrics selected:  remembering that I had to add 1/2 inch to the seams in order to have the blocks come out to the size I required.  That's why there is a narrow border of dark fabric.  When I placed the front and back of the quilt together, the front was smaller than the back.  In order to preserve the entire movie poster back, I had to add a border to the front.

Here is the lower left corner with the white cotton batting showing.  The black dashed lines are the basting stitches temporarily holding the quilt together.

And here's a central right side block.

When I got all the blocks sewed together and stood back from the quilt to get the overall effect, I was basically happy, but felt there was too much blank space around some of the blocks' photos.  So, I cut out individual postage stamps and appliqued them as a filler.  I started quilting "in the ditch" a couple of days ago (more stitching, ripping, and stitching) and I hope to have most of the sewing completed by this coming weekend.  Then, I'll be able to add the binding and call it a day on Elvis.

Here's the quilt face.  If I had a do-over, I'd use the same lay-out but stick to one batik fabric with the color palette of the central block.  I'd still use the appliqued stamps, which weren't part of the original design; I really like how they tied the individual blocks together.

Thanks is extended to Nancy Clifton of the Aiken Quilt Shoppe and Susan Congdon of the Aiken Quilt Society for their expert advice on fabric, for pointing me to the Web for inspiration, for listening patiently to my tales of woe as the project progressed, and for hiding so well their actual opinions about Elvis quilts in general.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Elvis Quilt in Progress

After I chose Elvis Presley as the theme for my quilt, I did a little Web-based research and found out that a guild in the U.S. had recently issued a challenge to its members to create Elvis quilts and that the guild had posted photos of the results.  So I swung by to get a little inspiration.  There were some really interesting interpretations, a couple of which were beyond me technically as this is only my second quilt.

Next, I Googled "Elvis fabrics" and came up with several online resources.  I decided to use the "Blue Hawaii" movie poster as the quilt back, and do a photo scrap book for the pieced front.

Here's the quilt back:  

And here are some of the photos that will be used on the front:

Of course, I spent a small fortune on the coordinating fabrics because I am not very good yet at determining what will work well in a quilt design.  Here is a small sampling of my purchases, one of which never made it into the project.  One fabric that is not in the photo contains a series of tropical stamps.  I purchased this fabric at Jo-Ann's and decided it would fit into the Hawaiian theme as well as address the "Return to Sender" song Elvis made popular.  It's visible in the second photo in this post.

I have a huge supply of the photo fabric left over, and I promised Nancy, my local quilt store owner, I'd bring it to her in case anyone else in the area wants to do an Elvis quilt.  Personally, I never want to look at anything Elvis ever again.  But I'm not complaining.  I feel like I am getting three-for-the-price-of-one this month: practice making another quilt; a gift for a dear friend; and another TIF challenge delivered on schedule.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gotta Love Elvis

Last week, I wrote briefly about the fiber class I am taking at the Columbia Museum of Art.  The class is taught by Susan Lenz and is called "Hot Fabric".    Since I mentioned the class in my last post, I thought I'd show you the results of my novice attempts at some of Susan's techniques.

This is the last piece I created.  It took about 15 minutes last Wednesday night to lay the foundation (fabric backing, layers of contrasting fibers, velvet squares, and overlay of netting), and 6 or so hours to plan out the other design elements, choose the contrasting fibers and beads for embellishment, and embroider the piece.

Susan asked us to complete several foundation pieces, so I selected one from the first class two weeks ago for a second go.  I was inspired by a Kaffe Fassett design and had an easier time choosing the embellishments because I was more constrained by the space and by the theme.  But overall, it took about 6 hours to complete as well.

I am working on one more piece today, and if I can get if finished by Wednesday evening, I will take all three to the last class and be guided by Susan's opinion about which one is most worthy of mounting and framing, which is the topic of the last class.

I loved the time I spent in this class.  I learned so much and Susan is a fantastic teacher.  She shared her studio materials freely, and I have to say I felt guilty about that.  Most of the classes I've taken with fiber artists require a separate materials fee.  So to ease my conscience, I made Susan a basket of fibers from my stash.  Hopefully it makes up in some small way for her generosity.

As to the September TIF theme, I'll be using the color palette this month.  I am cheating a bit because I will be finishing an Elvis quilt which I've already started.  The predominant colors on both sides of the quilt are the blue and yellow tones Sharon selected.  How lucky can a girl get! And before you go jumping to conclusions about my love for "The King," let me tell you that this quilt is a gift for a coworker who  was kind enough to give me her sewing machine to take my first quilting class last May.  When I asked her how much I could pay her for the machine, she said, "Make me a quilt."  She's a HUGE Elvis fan, so I thought maybe I could find some fabric with a music theme and print a few Elvis photos on muslin and do a four patch.  Well, it turns out that there is already a large selection of Elvis fabric out there, ready to be cut up for quilting!  Wow!  Who'd have thought.  Anyway, next weekend, I'll blog a little about the fabric and the design and my inspirations for the piece.  Selecting the fabric, piecing the quilt, and now quilting it has been one long  challenge, so I guess it's right and fitting that it shows up in TIF.