Archives for posts with tag: commission a quilt

When we left off, I was in creative retreat so I could work in an unhurried, peaceful environment.

img_2610

Wawayanda Lake, NJ

I had no particular plans, just a lot of materials.

img_3224

Back, or “patch” pockets

After making perhaps 10 denim quilts over two years, I’ve amassed collections of parts.  I’m inspired by that which seems unusable, like buttons and zippers.  Buttons are a lot like coins: they’re weighty, pleasingly embellished, and in accumulation create a treasure chest effect.  Eventually having them around resulted in this

img_1850

I’ve also been accumulating inside front pockets

img_2731

and discovered that these not-quite half moon, not quite quarter-circle sections of denim on plain cotton make a nice composition on their own …

dsc08619

as a four point star.

img_2730

With this inspiration, I found myself joining together as many as I could.  It was not especially easy or fun.  I wanted the watch pockets and rivets in there for texture and variation, but this upped the difficulty ante, so that needle heartbreak waited over every pass.  Modest Machine gamely grinded over the varying levels of fabric density like a mower over a dry rocky lawn.  Eventually a payoff came in visual impact as they multiplied.

dsc08616

Since the jeans and pockets were different sizes, the resulting star squares went from small to large.  Dipping into my denim stash, I gave each a wide border, adding tonal variation with different fades.

img_2746

Staggered, the borders gave a sense of movement to the stars, but I chose to collapse them into an overall square.

img_2763

I wanted to use as much of the original source material as possible. Lots of lining remained because of the emphasis on denim thus far.  Usually the back of a quilt is a simple muslim or sheet … why not piece all the pocket scraps together?  It would be smooth sailing for my little machine; the fabric was all the same weight.

dsc08618

So began another painstaking demonstration of the scrappiness of quilting

dsc08637

Why discard a piece with printing or graphics for added interest …

img_2825

Compositionally this part was more fun than the stars on the front

img_2801

And when it reached the size of the front piece

img_2817

I wasn’t sure which I liked better … each can stand (or lie) on its own

dsc08667

dsc08680

Completed July 27

If I had to classify it I’d call it a throw. When not thrown it folds up rather tidily. There is one more quilt I finished while on my peaceful retreat.  I’ll write about that next but will leave you with a summer sunset for now.

img_2806

July 26

 

 

 

 

Levi's backside = icon

I love denim.  I love it new and deeply saturated, I love it softly threadbare.  I love the gradations of blue.  Perhaps as a child of the 70s I just have jeans in my blood.

A recent Sunday found me and my quilts at Greenflea market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where an amiable man named Donald stopped to look at the quilts on the table and the fence.

The patchwork in the foreground is made from jeans, khaki's, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

The patchwork on the table in the foreground is composed of jeans, khaki’s, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

“If I gave you a bunch of jeans could you make me a quilt like that?” he asked.  This is music to Patwig’s ears.  I truly enjoy giving new form to clothes that would otherwise be discarded.  And I like the surprises and challenge in coaxing something from a given pile of cast-offs.  A few emails later I had these on my worktable.

7 pairs jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs

Seven pairs of jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs, most blue and black, with one pair of corduroys and one pair of white denim in the mix.  Donald wanted something that looked like the finished quilt he saw at Greenflea, but with a uniform border, for which he provided a yard-or-so of soft blue fabric.

One of the tricky bits about working with clothes, because of their shape and the need to cut unusable parts away, is that it’s not always clear how much is needed.

The legs were readily arranged

Donald wanted the finished quilt to be 75 x 80 inches

A quick arrangement of these cut legs helped me eyeball that there would be enough material to achieve the desired size.  So I paired up pockets from different pairs of jeans.

Probably because I started with a grid-ish structure, I alternated colors

Definitely needed to keep those iconic Levi’s tags

Some of the pocket areas were quite worn, so I repaired them with a bit of fabric underneath and a zig-zag stitch

This piece looks like it might have an ink stain in the rear right pocket.  Remember when we used to carry pens in our back pockets?

After much arranging and contemplating, I sewed until there were several rows, a beginning for the center of a queen bed.  I thought this a good time to check with Donald to see if I was barking up the right tree, so I emailed him a picture of what I had so far.

DSC01163

He said it looked OK, but a bit boring, given the orderly grid.  He also wanted more emphasis on the blues and less on the orange and white, which made up the majority of the piece so far.

Dear Reader, I wanted to do better than OK and a bit boring, so with his blessing I cut it up again.  Then the project really opened up – it would be orderly no more …

I had been emphasizing the pockets, now I added it more plain blue legs, which offered their own variety in the form of worn knee areas

I cut to maximize blues

With so many of my "rows" ending with the top of the jeans or other particularly thick spots, I ended up sewing the rows onto backing pieces

I resewed pieces back at angles, joining sections with smaller strips of non-blues

I cut the original section out at angles, varying the row widths

The angles varied the row widths

I increased the length of the rows by adding in a couple of stripped sections

I increased some rows by adding two strip sections, including a button fly strip.

With a lot more movement in the mix, my focus turned to getting the size right.  The goal was 75 x 80, and the fabric Donald provided would yield a 6 inch border.  So I had to close the gap between the center above and the planned outer border.  Scrap time!

Cuffs often get frayed, which gave me a start on opening up those bottom seams. The worn areas resemble a sort of tie-dye pattern

Frayed cuffs start openings in the bottom seams.  Fully opening the hem triples the width of workable material and reveals a sort of tie-dye pattern

Strip borders are quick to compose and sew and, most dear to me, reduce waste.  Less goes in the garbage can

At this point there was fabric laying around everywhere

I laid the cut bits out until I was sure there was enough to go around

DSC01235

A row at a time is sewn together, pinned to the center, then the whole piece is folded up, ready for Modest Machine

Joining pieces

Though I used needles sized for denim, Modest Machine still broke 3 teeth on this project

One row at a time sewn together, sewn to the center, and trimmed

After rows are sewn to the center and pressed, they are trimmed at the sides with the rotary cutter

Each time I lay the quilt down I risk losing it to this resident

Each time I put the quilt down on the floor I risked losing it to this household resident

The blue fabric Donald wanted for the border was the last part of the quiltop

Once all 4 strip rows were done it was time to add the blue border.  I think it frames the active center well

This part of quilt making is physical.  Down on the floor, crawling from side to side while straightening, smoothing, pinning, and folding, then up and down the hall to feed carefully through the machine, sticking myself with pins multiple times along the way, then back to the floor, unfolding and doing it all again.  Knees, back, ankles, wrists — all recruits to the effort.  No wonder whole groups of women made larger quilts before labor saving devices were available.

Only once the outer border is done is it time to turn the quiltop design into what we know as a quilt.  That starts with batting

Quiltop done, it's time to actually turn it into what we know as a quilt

Batting is a layer of pure cotton fill which gives a quilt its warmth

The batting is placed on the floor and smoothed out

On a flat surface, batting is placed down.  I have trimmed it to just over the size of this piece

The quiltop is placed on the batting, right side up, smoothed out, then a single layer of backing is added.  Sheets work well for this job.

The backing -- Wendy's sheet -- is the third layer

Who knows what calculus goes into such decisions, but luckily for me, this baby blue in very good condition was retired from its household bedmaking rotation, donated to me, and perfect for this quilt

As well as being physical, the end stage of the process features craft and precision.  It’s not especially fun.  I’m always concerned that I’ll seriously mess something up and all will be lost.

once pinned together, again I fold it up and bring it to Modest Machine.  For this I sewed around the perimeter twice.  Because of the smooth surfaces -- compared to the bumpy layers of denim -- it goes smoothly, with no broken needles

Now for the final two rounds around the perimeter joining all three layers

Once turned inside out, pressing the edge seams is necessary to establish the edge

Once turned inside out, pressing outer borders is necessary to establish the edges.  I do the first part on my ironing board then, you guessed it, back to the floor

Because of its size, ties will help keep the layers from shifting around.  I've got this old spool of needlepoint thread -- I think it was my mother's or grandmother's -- and it matches the corduroy perfectly

Simple ties will restrict shifting from the weight of the denim. This old spool of needlepoint thread — I think it was my mother’s or grandmother’s — matches the corduroy perfectly

As I go through my photos while writing this post, I realize I don’t have one overall picture of the finished quilt.  What I do have are these detail shots,  which is what I liked most working on this, the juxtapositions of various bits of old jeans.

DSC01270

DSC01271

DSC01269

DSC01263

DSC01268

DSC01265

You made it to the end!  Hope you enjoyed this scroll through my quilt making process.  Please feel free to share/link/forward Patwig’s Blog with anyone you think may enjoy it.

I’m not sure when or where it was, but at some point I was lucky enough to see Ellsworth Kelly’s Colors For a Large Wall on a wall, in all it’s pristine, elemental squareness, with colors stacked boldly in perfect certainty.  And I, in my complimentary simplicity, thought, that’s a great quilt.

So I gathered from my stash matching solid colors (except a purple, which I didn’t have a close-enough, so I threw in a lilac batik) for a homage to Kelly’s work.  I thought it came out a little flat.

Lacking some luster

Later I added yarn ties; I think it looks better here, without

Apparently the lesson of Kelly’s architecture needed time to percolate.

Since I make quilts from old clothes, I need to cut them up before I use them.  I don’t necessarily use all these cuts for whatever project is at hand.  I always seem to be cutting a lot of shirts, and began to save the shirt pockets. They accumulated.

Because you never know

I think there were 65 or so

Recently I got them out, and began to play

There's something pleasing about these orderly rows

Started on the worktable but there wasn’t enough room

I like this rug for this purpose because the inner bordered area is about 4 x 6 -- giving me a guideline of how big I'm getting

I knew I wanted a nicely stacked square, like CFALW

I knew I wanted the orange in ...

Colors interact, as do pattern and texture

Working on the floor does have its hazards ...

Working on the floor does have its hazards

Until

I was looking for balance

Certain colors drive other color choices. The brilliant pumpkin orange (two buttoned shirt pockets see above — thanks Nancy!) led to the inclusion of this playful green patterned print which I had forever but hadn’t found a use for

Color text on the shirt:  Full of mischief! and Good Times!

Bright text reads “full of mischief”

Some pockets I included because I liked their elegant insignias, and some for their weighty, tweedy feel

Modest Machine

Modest Machine still by my side

Eventually I settled on an order for the rows

Seven rows of seven pocket squares

Seven by seven pocket squares

And since I’m never too fussy about lining up my points

I am careful with my pinning

I am careful with my pinning

The top came together quickly

All sewed up

All sewed and pressed

Because the shirts emphasize fall colors, it seemed fitting to wrap a warm brown flannel around the block design

feelsbetter

I finished this quilt in mid-September and brought it along to Greenflea Market where I put up my quilts on good-weather Sundays.  The first week it was out on a table and passersby stopped to put their hands in the pockets.  The second time I put it up on the fence.

DSC01052

I could call it Fall Colors for a Large Fence

Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Kelly.

This story starts with two little boys living in the Midwest.  In addition to being pretty lucky in the parent department (example of a house rule:  being read to is a right, not a privilege), they have an exceptionally dedicated grandmother, Sue.  Sue is very involved with her grandsons, but is understandably rueful her husband died before he could know them.  She wanted them to have something that would evoke him.  This is where Patwig comes in.

Sue contributed more than 35 shirts for this project. After I cut up the first bunch (the stack in front) she sent more.

She wanted a twin sized quilt for each boy made from her husband’s old button-downs.  Some were standard white formal fare, many sported various hues of blue, with and without stripes, and a few were appealing paisleys and plaids.  After seeing sample Patwig Quilts, she chose the Nine-Patch block pattern and the Log Cabin pattern, which I hadn’t made before.  That settled, she essentially gave me carte blanche to create, and I continued to be amazed at the trust people place in strangers.

Where to begin wasn’t hard to decide.

Log Cabin is a classic quilt block. A square sits at the center, (typically red), and rows of blocks are placed around it, one side light, one side dark.

I started with easy colors, as in the solid pairings above, and proceeded to more complex couplings, like the patterned lights and darks below

The red/pink and paisley here were among Sue's favorites

As blocks were completed I put them down on the floor to see light and dark create patterns.

The dark side is the strongest visual element here

I’d been working one block at a time until this point, and feeling assured that I was on the right track, shifted to mass production.  This meant cutting 17 squares, 119 light blocks, 102 dark blocks and backing all with fusible interfacing.

A rotary cutter and grid mat make this more efficient, but it still takes time. Music helps.

Once all components were prepped, I sewed them together and put them down on the floor

until I arrived at this…

"Diamond in the Square" is another classic quilt pattern

With the Log Cabin blocks done, I was ready to turn to the second quiltop.  Fortuitously, many cutting remnants offered a head start

 

The Nine-Patch ultimately required 567 two inch squares

Making the Nine-Patch was very enjoyable; each is an individual composition.  This is the part I truly enjoy.

Once they began to multiply, I line them up en masse to see what they would do

More hodgepodge than medley

Moving to the floor, I added space between them

Much more distinct this way

Then each Nine-Patch got a border, all from button-down shirts

Steady production continued — sewing, pressing, sewing some more, until 63 Nine-Patch blocks each had a pressed border.

"Cute as a button" is a little precious, but I think it fits here

I was enjoying this small form stuff so much I’d forgotten the bigger picture — how they will form a quiltop:

Back on the floor

Going for 9 rows of 7

Next time I'll wear knee pads

All down, random placement.

How about alternating light and dark rows?

We have a winner

This is the midpoint.  The primary design –the quiltop– is done.   The rest is, shall we say, finish work (albeit with a decorative border).  This is mostly assembly, but what it lacks in creativity it pays back in satisfaction as the finished piece slowly comes together.

Two stacks of quilt blocks

Individual blocks make a row, rows make a quiltop

I'm making more of an effort to get my corners "on point"

You can see the fusible interfacing on the backs here

A border brings each quilt up to twin size.  I made a strip border drawing mostly from the white and striped button-downs.

My son suggested adding more dark colors

After almost 300 two-by-seven inch strips were pressed, fused, sewn together and ironed, the quiltops are “framed”

A border on the Log Cabin really pops the diamonds out

This is my sixth Nine Patch quilt

Next up: batting (or fill) and backing.  Sue has provided two full-sized sheets for the backing.  Who can guess why this one has patchwork in the corners?

These sheets were repurposed twice: Sue had given them to a friend to use as drop cloths for painting before they got to me

Once the layers are sewn together and pressed (That sounds so breezy, doesn’t it?  At about 65 by 82 inches, it took about an hour to seam each twice), I hand tie them together with yarn (another afternoon) with a nice light blue yarn I picked up for a song in Chinatown

A tapestry needle works best to pull the yarn through the layers, finished with a double knot.

This work takes place on the floor, where helpers stroll

Ursula is the only one of our cats that goes after yarn

Finished, side by side

Congratulations to you for making it all the way through this!  I believe you are among a small, but attentive group of people.  If there’s anyone you know whom you think might make it all the way as well, please send a link to this page to them, or post on your preferred social media.

Next post will be a Patwig Scrap Project.

Well that took forever.  Or at least felt like it did.  My First Commission (MFC) is done.  Fin,  au revoir, ciao, adios.  Now it’s rolled up and bound, set in a corner just waiting to be delivered to the interested individual who commissioned it, despite the fact that little more than a week ago I was tearing my hair out trying to finish-the-damn-thing-already.  As fate would have it,  it won’t move to its new home until late July.

To recap, this is a blog about making quilts from old clothes (and other found materials) and the last time I had anything to show for MFC was this pile of triangles

The starting point for this quilt was that it match the curtains in its intended bedroom.  That color sits on top of the pile below

The Forest Swatch led the way for color selection.

Then my mother-in-law, commissioner behind My First Commission, gave me a page from the LL Bean catalog

My eye was drawn to the quilt with the triangular pattern.

Inspired by the abundant white background, I messed around with the triangles until I arrived at a simple flying geese pattern

Traditional quilts are built from blocks. The basic block here is five-by-five triangles. This configuration and its variants is commonly called "flying geese."

The 5 x 5 blocks above contain 50 triangles and are approximately 18 inches square.  I needed 20 blocks (or 1000 triangles) for a queen-sized quilt.  Much cutting ensued.  This endeavor brought to mind a friend whose last name is Cutting.  I wondered about the origin of his name.  Did it come from a task turned into an occupation, like Miller or Smith?  Is it ironic that he also works with fabric and textiles?  This is where the mind wanders when the body is rooted to a rote assignment.

Cutting fabric into pieces in order to sew them back together is the paradox of quilting.

What happened next might be dubbed individual mass production:

One after the other, triangles sewn together make individual squares.

The seams are iron-pressed to flatten the squares

I LOVE this pink, another Salvation Army special. If I could name the color I'd call it Raspberry Geranium.

The squares are sewn together to make rows

Modest Machine capably handles this job.

And rows are sewn together to make the 5 x 5 square

What you see here is seven piles of five rows, all to be sewn together.

The basic block, this one in a mad yellow:

Edges are trimmed with a rotary cutter to square it off, resulting in a 17 inch square.

Time out here to tell you about one of the recurring fabrics in this quilt. It is a floral on a beige background, and it counterbalances the color-rich Forest Swatch and  Raspberry Geranium.  But that’s not why I’m telling you about it.  This fabric is remnants from dining room curtains my mother-in-law made 43 years ago.  I’m so delighted to have found a use for something that’s been sitting in a drawer for a lifetime.  This is the essence of a Patwig quilt.

I've even got a little bit left, which I think will pair nicely with denim for a heavyweight composition. Car quilt or picnic blanket anyone?

At this stage the project’s size requires me to move out of my workroom.  As I finish blocks I lay them down on the floor, and begin to think about how to border it.

Luckily my cats are otherwise occupied.

Then the blocks are sewn into rows, and the rows sewn together until it is one large rectangle.  This is where it gets a bit unwieldy.

After each row is sewn seams are pressed to one side. This is necessary to flatten the top. It also means a lot of moving the quilt from machine to floor to ironing board while trying not to trip over the fabric.

For a border I hope to use some of the green triangles that now seem to be everywhere, but I feel it needs a gradual transition — it’s too abrupt to place the darkest color alongside the lighter blocks. And the overall block pattern is too large to finish with a mere four-inch border.  Cue the curtain floral:

Fortunately I didn't cut all of it into triangles, so I simply sew long pieces to all four sides -- blissfully expeditious.

Unfortunately, for the green border I have nothing but triangles, so production slows while those are sewn into squares, then rows …

What moves me through this tedium is knowing the resulting border will be enhanced by the triangles, like a wood frame surrounding a linen matte.

This is the biggest quilt I’ve ever made.  Me and Modest Machine are officially riding in uncharted territory as I prepare to sew seams along the carefully pinned and folded beast

Looks a bit like a table runner.

Imagining women creating quilts of similar size with only needle and thread and no electricity  puts me in awe.  Here’s a book I enjoyed that describes women doing just that during Westward Expansion in the U.S.  After pressing the seams, the quilt top is done.  But there will be no rest for the weary.  Backing and fill remain!

Engulfing my ironing board in this way, My First Commission almost looks elegant.

I made a backing from the remainder of the bedskirt and “Sear’s Best” white twin sheets that my mother-in-law purchased for her oldest son when he was at college.  He never used them, and she still had the unopened package.   The fill is all-cotton batting purchased new from the City Quilter.

The final step is to attach the layers, which I do by hand-tying with yarn.    The floor is the only surface large enough for it to lay flat, a requirement while the layers are not secured together, and I scoot around, sometimes blanching in discomfort, while pulling yarn with a needle through three thick layers of fabric many times over.

I am pleased this yarn picks up the Raspberry Geranium so nicely.

Once enough ties were in to give the quilt stability, I hung it over the banister and finished off the remaining ties while more comfortably seated on a chair.  As the pins and needles drained out of my legs I began to like MFC again.

If you have a hankering to gather together some of your old clothing or other fabrics and fashion them into something useful (and perhaps meaningful, depending on the clothing), I will be interested in taking quilt commissions beginning in early August.  Thanks for making it to the end.

%d bloggers like this: