My baby brother turns 14 today. Let’s face it: he isn’t a baby anymore. This young man excels in sports, scouts, and school. He even has a girlfriend. So this year I asked for his input on a gift. I wanted to make something he’d like to have… not that I’d like him to have. (See the difference?) He asked for a gym bag. Okay, I can do that.
More conversations revealed that he’s like to fit a basketball, sneakers, and clothes inside the gym bag.. and that his favorite team is the Boston Celtics. So here’s what I came up with, after going back to the sketchpad many many times. I’m happy with its simplicity… which makes it more likely for this manchild to get good use out of it. I even managed not to cut the “m” into a heart-shape.
I made this bag out of one yard of designer-length tapestry cloth. It has two large pockets inside and a long strap. Jim’s name is fused on with heat-n-bond ultra hold. The dot over the letter “i” is the Celtic’s logo.
TIP: Choose your fusible webbing wisely! Heat-n-bond ultra hold is great for this thicker fabric that will get a lot of use. Don’t sew through it! It’ll gum up your sewing machine. I use seam-a-steam2 for the portrait quilts. It holds well, is stiff, and is still easy to sew through. If you’re making something that needs to be soft I recommend misty fuse. This is not paper-backed, which is why I don’t use it for the portrait quilts. It would take a lot more time than my current method… but when it matters, it will keep the fabric soft.
Ta-da! Here they are, the long awaited photographs of “Estey’s Quilt.” Isn’t it cool? This is both my latest finish and the first of the portrait quilts I’ve made.
It started with a quilt show where I saw some beautiful applique quilts of a tiger’s face. Those quilts had been made from a pattern. My friend knew the perfect book when I mentioned that I’d like to learn how to make quilts like that, but from my own photographs, and to draft my own pattern. Here’s the link to that book on Amazon. It’s Faces and Places by Charlotte Warr Anderson. http://www.amazon.com/Faces-Places-Print-Demand-Edition/dp/1571200002/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1347682166&sr=8-3&keywords=charlotte+warr+anderson. She teaches how to use the shapes and shadows from actual photographs in quilts. Her method is reverse applique by hand. So that’s what I did for this first one. It is also hand quilted entirely by hand… which is why it took so long to make.
I found that I enjoyed this project so much that I wanted to make more… so I experimented with fusible webbing and machine quilting to streamline the process.
So there you have it, the whats and hows. But what are really special to me about this quilt are the whys. See, Estey is my little sister. We’ve pretty much had an up-and-down relationship from day one… when I threw a tantrum that “my baby” wasn’t named Jesus. (She was due around Christmastime, and I was nearly four years old.) Recently I’ve been putting a lot of effort into remembering the good times, and appreciating the woman she is today. That’s what I was focusing on with every hand stitch. The photograph this quilt is based on was taken when she was a toddler, struggling to get out of the stroller at Grandma’s house.
My baby sister is now married and expecting a child of her own. I feel like I’m not articulating this well right now, but I feel even more connected with and happy for her because of the time I put into this project. Plus it’ll be a great happy-expectations gift when I get it in the mail.
Since the beginning, I’ve categorized my crumb quilts as crazy quilting. And looking at them, you can see why. Visually there’s a lot in common with crazy quilts…. at least initially.
I’ve changed my mind. It isn’t crazy quilting. Crazy quilts use many kinds of fabrics, showcase embellishments, and are usually foundation pieced. My crumb quilting has much more in common with improvisational piecing, which is a modern approach to creating shapes without using patterns or templates. Here, let me show you. This is an improvisational pieced block that I made for a recent group challenge.
I just cut and sewed things together in straight lines, over and over, until I liked the shapes it made and the overall look. It’s regular machine piecing. That’s what I do with crumb blocks, just on a smaller scale. Here is the back of a crumb block in progress. See?
This little epiphany will help me explain my process more clearly to others. Though the finished project may look similar to a crazy quilt, that’s not how you get there. Improv. piecing is a completely different way to do things. No wonder I was getting so many confused looks! Here’s how to do it:
Sew a straight line to join two tiny pieces of fabric together. Press the seam to one side, doesn’t matter which one.
Repeat #1 until you have a small pile of two-fabrics together (2’s)
Sew two those new pieces you’ve made out of two fabrics together. Press. Now you have some 4’s.
Repeat #3 until you have a small pile of four-fabrics together (4’s)
Sew the 4’s together. Press. Repeat until you have a big enough piece for whatever you’re making. My large quilt has 3.5″ squares.
Square it up! It’s going to be a weird shape after all that work so take your ruler and rotary cutter and cut it to the size you want.
Use the cut-off leftovers to start the next block.
How many UFOs do you have? No, not the space ships, I mean unfinished objects. Mine are mostly sewing projects and I’m sure I have at least 30, though I haven’t done an exact count recently. This week I’ve been hopping from thing to thing, not quite satisfied to sit down with just one.
Please forgive my lack of photos this time. I took them… and moved the camera away from its cord… and promptly forgot where that cord is? I know, it’s where I left it. Wherever that is. So just use your imagination for this one and I’ll get back to photos on the next post.
Here are some of the UFOs I’ve been working on this week:
A one block log cabin quilt with Asian prints.
Decorating my work apron. We’re required to wear one, but can trick it out however we want to. I’m adding pockets, making it shorter, and decorating it with some of my crumb quilting goodness. Yes, I’ll show you guys a picture soon.
Binding some place mats for the senior center.
Hand quilting “Estey’s Quilt”… It’s almost ready to show you guys! I spent several hours working on this at a car show. Thankfully, my husband recommended bringing along some handwork. I’m so glad he did because it would have been beyond boring for me without it!
Planning out a birthday present for my baby brother. He’s turning 14. I know, not really a baby anymore but he’s still my baby.
Making a red/blue/purple/black string quilt
Playing around with improvisational piecing
Pulling fabrics and otherwise planning a portrait quilt based on a wedding photograph
And, of course, working on the 4 subjects piece I wrote about in my last blog post.
Whew! I don’t know why I’ve been project-hopping like this but I’ll just go with it for now, especially since I don’t have any big deadlines coming up quickly. I’ll just enjoy dabbling in everything.