Archives for posts with tag: old button-downs

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.

Advertisements

I love the process of constructing a quilt.  It starts simply enough.  Sometimes two colors lodge in my mind and I want to explore the various ways they interact with each other.  Other times texture leads the way — a rough, loosely woven linen is warmed with worn faded denim.  And the path fabrics followed to my work table is always present in my mind:  scads of worn linen from a couch slipcover enthusiastically shredded by the family cats; a caution-cone-bright orange backing a graphic superhero print on boys’ boxers;  a lightweight denim workshirt that put me in mind of a shirt found in Florence years ago, long since disappeared.  Pulling all these pieces together is a reflection on the various parts of my life.

One of the warm oranges here is from curtains my mother made for her kitchen.  There’s also a pillow case given me by a friend’s mother when she and her husband moved out of their longtime family home.

Inspiration also comes from my environment … I’m always looking when wandering.  Lucky enough to go to Israel this summer, I admired this doorway in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood

Orange and blue have always created sparks for me, though they’re too bright and lively for me to feel comfortable wearing.  They work to good effect in this Nine Patch Patwig from a few posts back

And so I embark on a quilt in these colors, with my creative process guided by a wish to use materials on hand, to not waste.  On this occasion I turn to my stash of completed blocks, made from scraps after earlier projects

There are lots of blocks in my stash, but I choose these mostly for color, and partly for shape

The blocks need to be unified, so I surround them, frame-like, with a soft blue.  My blue stash offers a combination of scraps, from lightweight faded denim to old blue Oxford shirts

Narrow borders recall the small squares of the nine patch

Making these borders goes relatively quickly, if workmanlike.  When a border strip is big enough I sew it around the sides of the block, iron-pressing down the seams along the way

The underbelly of a quilt block

It’s hard to explain what I like about doing this, but I get utterly lost in it, much in the same way as I do gardening.  Times like these the work is its own reward, and I forget for a moment that there is as of yet no particular destination for the end result

Modest Machine never questions why I ask it to do so much, it just trundles along, well earning its next oiling

As the blocks are surrounded in blue a feeling takes shape which reminds me of those black and white “scan boxes” that seem to be everywhere these days — which googling just told me is  QR code

With the center composition done it’s time to think about how to border it.  There are many different ways to do borders on quilts but I often end up making simple strip borders.  It helps to lay out a bunch of fabrics to see what happens

A little orange really does go a long way

This is more rote work, though I have fun rifling through my orange fabric box for strips.  The border length is roughly determined by the size of scraps I’m finding — I prioritize using up what’s already cut and not hacking into another large piece of fabric.

And since there’s no end to light blue men’s dress shirts the heady orange is readily diluted

I often hand tie my quilts with yarn (again, as in the Nine Patch above), but this quilt turns out small enough at 55 x 59 that I just seal it with a machine stitched border around the outside.

And it’s done.

The last time you heard from me I had just completed memorial quilts so two little boys could have a physical connection with their grandfather.  Their grandmother Sue, who commissioned the project, provided about 40 of her late husband’s button-downs shirts for this labor of love. Masses of scraps remained in its wake

In the beginning there were scraps

What to do?  I could throw them out (unthinkable), file them in my fabric stash (tedious), or … of course, make a quilt!

Behold, a colorful block rises from scrap ashes

This enterprise commenced mid-August, still summer, when the days are long and light and sewing hundreds of fabric bits together seems just as good as anything else to do.  It began with block constructions, like this

Color leads the way

Block by block, matching pieces by length, coupling by complimentary colors or color groups, I sewed bits together

No pattern here, just freestyling

One by one, the glittering jewels that center each block beckon for a supporting structure

Small scraps join to form columns

and it’s done when

.... the matching scraps have run out

And so it continued, in a groove that I enjoyed immensely, until about 25 squares and rectangles were stacked on my table.  Time to lay them out to see what they did together.  I decided to use just squares

Keep reading to see what I did with the squares, and tell me what you think: would the mix above have worked just as well on its own?

Since there were still lots of whites, it seemed a no brainer to use them for sashing around the blocks.

The steps involved: group by length, sew pairs, sew resulting couplets, and so on until the lengths surround each block

I thought a layer between the white sashing would pop the color even more, so in went a light mint green, which addition opened up six holes for more color to fill

Can you see the resemblance to the quilts from last post?

With the center of the quilt essentially done, it’s time to conjure a border.  The scrap pile still waited with plenty on offer

Modest Machine gamely gobbled along as I fed it countless pieces of fabric, joining until they reached eight inch lengths, which would then be sewn together for a basic strip border

This took some time, but the robust border that resulted seams worth the effort

I finally did run out of color scraps for the strips so I used remaining whites to fill out the border at the corners

When a quiltop is finished, it’s time for “backing.” As there were many whole shirts and sections that had yet to meet my rotary cutter, I rather extravagantly cut out 15″ square blocks.

I told you I could put these shirts to good use, Sue!

I hadn’t used any new materials up to this point, and was determined to recycle for the batting (fill) as well.  It should come as no surprise that I keep batting remnants, and after stitching four pieces of batting and pinning all three layers (top, batting and backing), I carefully folded it up for Modest Machine to sew

Is keeping pedal to the floor three times around a rather unweildy 66" x 82" pile of fabric rather like circling the yard perimeter with a ride-on mower?

Then I can stand up and stretch my legs while ironing the whole thing out

Now that it has volume it looks and feels like a quilt

Not quite to the finish line, I pick out yarn for the ties

Red and blue too good to be true

And it’s done.   Twin sized, nearly all recycled materials (can you guess the one element that is not recycled?) and for sale (email me with your best offer!).  Thank you for reading Patwig’s Blog.

Made by hand (and Modest Machine) in New York City, USA


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.

%d bloggers like this: