Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Sewing room away from home" and a question...

Hand applique is totally portable, THANK GOD!!  I posted block #5 of "Baltimore Rhapsody" yesterday, but I just had to share this today, especially for all you busy moms/grandmas out there...

Here I am working in my most recent "sewing room away from home" Subaru car!  My daughter recently finished her required Level One driving course for the state of Michigan.  It lasted several weeks with 2 evening sessions a week.  To keep from spending all my time driving to and fro, I decided to just camp out, in the car, and get some work done (about the time I would arrive at home, it would be time to go back and get her...sigh).

I have my little thread/snip-it container on the dash, NPR playing on the radio, a diet Coke in the cup holder, a light hanging around my neck, and a little battery fan in case it gets a little stuffy in there.  Everything but a potty (should buy a smaller pop...).  I think I need to install a trailer hitch and pull around a little 5th wheel, set up as a sewing room.
I do get a few stares from other parents, but that doesn't stop me.  One evening, a policeman stopped and walked over to talk to me.  Maybe he got a tip from the Department of Homeland Security that a strange woman in a little gray car was casing the AAA office.  He was friendly enough, but he did ask my name...isn't that weird?  Maybe I'm now on a terrorist watch list somewhere..."dangerous mom with a needle"...

Weasley says "hi!"

I'm having a problem with Blogger...maybe some of you are having the same problem and may even know how to fix it?!?  When I try and leave a comment on some blogs I follow/visit, I'm not signed in and I am asked to "select a profile."  I do that, but I never get a window to put my user name and password, so I can't leave a comment.  I have been able to leave comments on these sites before.  If I have time to try and find an email address on the blog in question, I leave a comment that way, but sometimes the link to an email address isn't obvious.

I have not commented in a while on Madamme Samm's "Sew We Quilt!" site, and others, and I can't find a link to her email ANYWHERE!  Help! 

Have you experienced this??  Please let me know if you have a fix!  I am not comfortable as a lurker, and I have not had as many commenters or new followers lately on my blog and I'm worried that some people are having the same trouble here.  My page count is people are seeing my page.  I am so close to having 500 followers, but the number has not budged!

Enjoy sewing this weekend...if you see me somewhere, stitching in my car, come say hello (and don't alert law enforcement...I am harmless)!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Block #5 - a grand piano


The concert grand piano is my favorite solo instrument in the symphony.  I ended up making mine brown instead of the more formal black because browns made it easier to highlight the different parts of the piano...there's definitely more of a range with my stash of browns than my blacks.

This is the 5th block in the quilt that I am designing called "Baltimore Symphony" (click to read the back story).  Soon the blocks will be available for purchase, either separately, or in groups.  Each block will finish 15 inches square.  The first 16 blocks feature instruments associated with a symphony.

The piano was invented in 1709 by Bartolommeo Cristofori, so that makes it pretty young as compared to other instruments.  It was created because the harpsichord just couldn't match the power, dynamic range, and expression of the violin. 

Several changes were made over time due to the demands of keyboardists.  It has strings, but is in the percussion section, of all things (hammers strike the strings to make sound)!

I made the large corner rose motifs with accompanying leaves "off block"...hand appliqueing all the petals together before placing the finished rose on the background.  

Then I added the stems, buds, and leaves using Roxanne's glue baste ("dot-dot-not-a-lot") to secure the pieces until I finished the hand stitching.

I find the pattern weights indispensable while gluing.  They hold things in place why I apply the tiny glue dots.  I got the hard white ones years ago.  The bean bag type can be found here

I do my hand applique with YLI silk thread.  It is like sewing with human hair and I really like the way the stitches...just...disappear!  I use a glue stick to turn the edges under (using a freezer paper pattern adhered to the RIGHT side of the fabric as my guide).  There are detailed tutorials on my top tool bar to explain this method.

I took the easy way out on the keyboard...I appliqued a white fabric piece to be doodled on later (after all the applique was done and the block was hand-washed and ironed dry).  I used a #005 (0.2 mm) black Pigma pen to draw in the keys.  (I will show pictures of how I carefully soak and dry my blocks in my next post.)

There's no shame in taking the easy way out and drawing the keyboard...or other block details.  I looked at every piano fabric in my stash, hoping to find one that was the exact right size and perspective that would work by fussy-cutting...Broderie such luck (it was a long shot...).  

If you have trouble finding that tiniest size of Pigma pens near you, they can be found here.

I hope you find some sewing time today...I have had so much fun with this project!  I love your comments and hearing about your music experiences!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Block 4 - the aristocratic instrument

Block 4 of "Baltimore Rhapsody" is the trumpet block.  One of my favorite things about quilting is that block elements don't have to follow the rules of scale...a giant trumpet looks perfectly appropriate towering above little pumpkins...pumpkins that would normally squash, or at least SERIOUSLY damage, a trumpet if dropped on it.  I based this block on one of the original blocks I drafted for my Civil War Bride Quilt.

This block is a little more "folk art" looking than some of the typical, more elegant Baltimore album blocks.  I love making pumpkins and anything that reminds me of fall, my favorite season!  It's nice to take a break from the typical fruits and flowers and do something a little unexpected.

The trumpet is the soprano member of the brass family.  People who don't play brass instruments wonder at all the loops, twists and turns in the instrument's tubing.  Before 1500, trumpets were straight and as long as 7 feet long...that would be a little awkward for the player, don't you think?  All those loops make the instruments more practical and easier to handle (just wait 'til we get to the TUBA!).

An ancient relative of the trumpet, made from a ram's horn, was believed to have brought down the walls of Jericho by Joshua.  In the middle ages, only noblemen employed a trumpet player...maybe to announce his entrance in a room.  Trumpets were later used in battle by the military to announce a charge and scare the pants off the enemy.  Remember the Imperial Margarine commercial with the fanfare and the crown that appeared after a bite was taken of the buttered bread?  Yep, that was a trumpet.

Now trumpets are used in orchestral, band, and jazz music.

I posted about making the sunflower in a "sneak peek" here.  To find out the back story about "Baltimore Rhapsody," check here.

My husband is almost through with the web site, and patterns are being prepared to put there.  I am so excited about this project!  I just want to be drawing, prepping and stitching all the time!  Too bad that there are meals to make, laundry to do, etc.

I now have a "Follow By Email" button above Weasley's picture at the top of my blog on the right side (thanks for suggesting it, Janice!).  If I did this right, you can sign up to receive email notices of new posts.  Let me know if it works...I'm not very good at this blogging thing!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o) 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Block 3 - bowing to Baltimore tradition...

I couldn't do a Baltimore Album influenced musical quilt without the most commonly seen musical instrument in antique Baltimore blocks - the lyre.  Harps and simple horns are sometimes seen as well.  I figured that the simplicity of the lyre would balance the complexity of other instruments.

The lyre was an ancient stringed instrument that had 3 to 12 strings, a simple way to tighten the strings to change pitch, and was commonly strummed with the hand.  Evidence of lyres dates back to ancient Sumaria, dating from 3000 B.C. (it is thought that King David played a form of lyre called a kinnor, as mentioned in the Bible).

Glue basting the petals of the country rose together, working off block.

The lyre was most popular in ancient Greece and appears in Greek Mythology where it was believed to be invented by Apollo.  A son of Zeus apparently played the lyre and the sound conjured huge heavy stones to move into place while the walls were built around the city of Thebes.
Gee...maybe if I had one of those, I could practice and at the same time conjure my housework to be done...  

Prepping the bases of the rosebuds.

I would guess that women chose the lyre for their blocks because the Greek myths were commonly known, it represented music and knowledge of the classics, and it was easy to draw.  

Referencing the pattern through the background, the stems, leaves, and buds are glue basted into place.

I chose to draw a large one and keep it simple by only depicting 3 strings.  I'm sure ancient man was blowing and beating on other things, making crude music or at least a beat to dance to, but I included a lyre as sort of the "mother" of later instruments.  

All the laurel branch pieces are placed and glue basted before the lyre and large rose are positioned.

Click here to see how I constructed the country rose, placed at the base of the lyre, crowning the laurel wreath.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Block 2 - hip-hip-hooray for all the clarinet players out there...

Block 2 of "Baltimore Rhapsody" is the clarinet block.  ("Baltimore Rhapsody" is my original musical pattern series in the making - to learn the back story, click here).  As a clarinet player, of course this had to be one of the first musical instruments drafted!

The clarinet, a single reed instrument, is one of the four typical kinds of woodwind instruments found in a symphony orchestra. It was invented about 1700.  Besides a symphony, clarinets are used in chamber music, concert bands, jazz ensembles, Dixieland bands, and waking up a napping Grandpa...

Admittedly, the size and shape of a traditional 15-inch block makes the long, skinny instruments more of a design challenge than, say, a tambourine or a stocky drum.  I finally settled on the instrument in the center of a heart wreath, which is appropriate for one of my favorites.

When I make this one again (I'm sure I will make a few of each block...), I will use a batik or similarly high thread count fabric to make all the silver keys of the instrument.  The grey that I used was a little testy as I glued/turned under under all the edges of the little circles or long rods.  I also want to experiment with some grey ultra suede, which has the advantage of being used "raw edge."  Alternately, it will also give me an opportunity to work on my raw edge applique...

After gently soaking the block to remove the glues, there was one tiny piece that I neglected to hand applique all sides down.  Due to the looser weave of the grey fabric, it was hard to wrangle the raw edge by needle turn to stitch it down.  No problem!  I just invented an extra key to cover up the area that looked a little threadbare...can you clarinet aficionados out there see where I fudged?? 

Picking the fabric palette for this project has been fun.  I felt I needed to use sort of bright fabrics for the flowers, fruits, birds, etc. due to the rather limited, muted palette of the instruments (blacks, greys, browns, and golds).  Then, I picked more traditional greens for leaves and vines to tone down the brights.  Hopefully the contrast of tones and values will cause movement in the finished top.

After drafting the heart wreath, I didn't like the empty spaces in the bottom corners, hence the loose blossoms.

It probably makes the gardeners crazy, but I am just making up flowers, right and left (I'm not sure I've ever seen this color blue in an actual blossom before, ha-ha).

The first 16 blocks will contain instruments found in a symphony orchestra.  But don't worry, the rest of the blocks will feature everything from organ pipes to accordions!

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Block 1 - no more sneaking around...the gradual reveal...

I am going to FINALLY share what I've been quietly working on for the past few months...even though this is a work in progress, I've been able to secure block copyrights and I've learned how to watermark photos (certainly am glad I married a computer geek...).  I'm still a little nervous about sharing it before it is all finished, but I may have a gray beard by the time I finish all the quilts I want to make with these blocks!  Also, the whole reason I started blogging was to share what I was working on!  It feels weird to be working so much "off line" and have nothing else to share on the blog.

In addition to studying chemistry in college, I studied music.  It has always bugged me that there were few quilts, quilt patterns, or block patterns that had anything to do with music.  Then, when I find one, often the music notation or instruments depicted are incorrectly/incompletely/poorly drafted.  Music notes with the "flags" (stems) drawn incorrectly is one one my big pet peeves!

With my love of music, applique, and Baltimore Album style quilts, I had a real head-slap sort of moment when I realized that I could combine the three elements and draft my own blocks.

So, even though I'm not much of an artist, I've been drafting blocks and having the time of my life!  The name of the project is "Baltimore Rhapsody."

By definition, a rhapsody is "a composition in free form, particularly popular in the nineteenth century."  That's the perfect definition for what I am doing...these blocks are definitely free form and Baltimore album quilts were popular near this time in history.

I have a pile of drafted fifteen inch blocks (about 30 so far) that feature individual instruments combined with the traditional elements of Baltimore album, fruits, veg, birds, animals, etc....PLUS introducing some non-traditional, more folk art elements (my journey of making and completing "The Civil War Bride" quilt encouraged me to be creative and think outside the box).

For those math-letes out there trying to figure out the dimensions of an album quilt consisting of 30 fifteen inch blocks, not to mention possible sashing and outer borders, you are right...that would be HUGE!  It is my hope that by having so many possibilities, one could choose favorite instrument block(s), and then set them (it) with the borders I'm drafting and come up with LOTS of possibilities for finished projects...either a one block wall hanging or quilts set 2 x 2, 2 x 3, 3 x 3, 3 x 4, 4 x 4...or whatever.

So now, I am madly making blocks!  The first sixteen that I am making have to do with the instruments of a symphony orchestra plus a couple of general music blocks (clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, strings, harp, piano, timpani, G clef, F clef, conductor, notes).  Those 16 will be combined with sashing and outer appliqued borders to make a tradition-looking album quilt.  Since I love all kinds of music, I've also drafted blocks from instruments used in country, pop, folk, jazz, and church music (guitar, dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, handbells, less known woodwinds, string bass, cello, viola, antique metronome, organ, saxophones, opera singer, various percussion, general music symbols, etc.).  Smaller quilts I want to draft would be groupings of woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, instruments used in church (organ, handbells, etc.), and others.

Individual blocks could be worked into wall hangings as a gift for a person who plays a particular instrument.

Being a musician, I know musicians that I have wanted to make gifts for...these blocks are what I have yearned to find for my own use for a long time.  I figured that if I was going to the trouble of drafting them for my own use, maybe other music lovers would appreciate them as well.  In addition to the fruity, flowery 15-inch blocks, I am drafting just instruments, alone, larger, all different sized blocks (some guys...and gals...don't want all those fruits and flowers).

In order to make instruments fit in 15 inch blocks, some are tiny, tiny!  Some instruments come in inconvenient sizes and shapes!  The larger sized blocks will be easier for both hand and machine applique.  I will make multiple settings that will incorporate pieced filler blocks and strips.   Then, I also have some drafts of music "scene" projects planned.  There is no end to where I want to go with all this!
Eventually, when I have good pictures of finished blocks, I want to self-publish them as full-sized pattern sheets, either individually or in small sets, along with different-sized appliqued border options.  That way people can pick and choose the one or few blocks they are interested in making.  (My nerdy husband is making me a web site to make this possible.)

Block one is a wreath-style invention made from "G clef" symbols, cone flowers and hyacinths.  I made it using the glue stick (turned-under edge) method of hand applique.  It can be made using any method of applique.  The G-clef is also known as the treble clef (tiny piano students know it as the "right hand" clef).

I'm very excited about this project and will show block 2 very soon.

In stitches (and finally out of the quilting closet),
Teresa  :o)