Quilting with Contrast and Instagram

I was planning to make a chevron baby quilt for my new grandson, but then I found a new piece of fabric and decided to do something else for him.

Squirrel!

But I still want to experiment with chevron quilts, because I plan to write a no-triangles pattern for them. So I pulled out 2″ strips of solid (tone-on-tone) olive greens, tans, and rust prints and sewed them into the 80 blocks I thought I needed. Trimmed them, pressed them, started arranging them on the design wall.   Ummm….. No. That was wrong. Last time I made it, I did it differently. It worked great that way. This way, not so much.  I had sewn all of the blocks WRONG.  And yet, I like it. I’m partial to scrap quilts, especially for autumn themes. It’s still a chevron pattern, with a narrow tan stripe and a broad green/rust stripe. I just need to arrange the blocks effectively, to make the pattern look right.

Pastel Paths Baby Quilt

With scrap quilts, contrast is very important. Sometimes you want a low contrast, where all the fabrics mush together and make a colorwash effect.  This baby quilt is all scraps, divided into two color groups but of a similar lightness. No individual pieces stand out. It is a “gentle” quilt.

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The majority of scrap quilts have backgrounds that contrast with the scrap fabrics. For the Double Wedding Ring table runner, I wanted the gray/black rings to be low-contrast scraps that read as “solid” in sharp contrast to the white background. None of the ring fabrics are too bright or too dark, and none of them have much white in them, or the finished pattern would not have be as distinct.

Pining for the Fjords

On the other hand, I wanted the blues in this Triple Irish Chain quilt to fade out into the white fabric of the background. I had to get the right placement of dark, medium and light blue fabrics to get that effect.

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Without a contrasting, unifying background fabric,  it’s especially important to achieve the right arrangement of scrap fabrics.  Whether you are sorting by color or value, the contrast is achieved by organizing the fabrics into groups.

Porch Quilt GloryQuilts

The Americana table runner and the purple quilt are divided into light and dark groups without many “medium” scraps, to keep the pattern distinct.

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The Tamarack Trees quilt fabrics are divided by color and a slight, low-contrast gradation from light to dark blues from the top of the quilt to the bottom.

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Chevrons are considered modern patterns and are usually made in a few simple fabrics.  To achieve the bold chevron pattern with scraps, the contrast between your fabrics groups – whether you are working with lights and darks or different hues – must be sharp and defined.

Because this is a serendipitous quilt – I’m making the best of things after I blew it, my fabric choices are not what I would have chosen if I had been planning it this way. It required some re-organization. I had selected the greens and rusts to contrast with each other, but now I want them to appear as a “mass” of darker fabric, so they should be relatively low in contrast to each other. They will form a broad stripe, and the tans will form a narrow stripe.

Now here’s the bit about Instagram:

For this project, I am more interested in light-dark contrast than color, so I need to remove or change the color factor from the quilt. Before the advent of digital photography, I squinted through little red and green plastic filters similar to those used in photography. Sometimes I glued together a fabric crutch and made a photocopy of it, to see it in black-and-white. Looking through a peephole (purchased from the hardware store) helped me see the overall effect of the pattern, too. Later, I took pictures with my digital camera and uploaded them to the computer, where I could use Photoshop options to change the brightness and hues. Simply changing a photograph to grayscale exposes weaknesses in the fabric arrangements. And then, when I was posting a picture to Instagram the other day, I realized that it is the perfect tool for judging contrasts! Without any uploading or editing, Instagram permits me to quickly snap pictures and instantly apply a series of filters to them. You can even do it right in the fabric store, to audition fabrics before you buy them.

autumnchevrongrayThis particular quilt was a good practice piece. I put the blocks up on the wall without any real arrangement of color. This black and white version, using the “Moon” filter, revealed that I needed to move around some of the pieces to increase the contrasts between the darks and lights, especially in the upper right quarter of the quilt and the lower left corner. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t have a bold enough contrast.

autumnchevronfadedI rearranged some of the blocks to put the darker tans near the edges of the quilt. When I applied the “Crema” filter, I could see that the zigzag pattern was more clear, but I had a group of very dark pieces in the middle that needed to be more evenly distributed over the quilt, and that lower left corner was still fuzzy.

autumnchevron

I played with it some more and kept taking snapshots until I had an arrangement I like. I can see that it is darker around the edges, but that isn’t as bad as having those dark tan pieces in the middle of the quilt where they muddled up the pattern. I like it. To further emphasize the chevron pattern, I will quilt this in two different colors – darker thread on the broad green/rust stripes and a cream thread on the tan ones. In the end, I think it will be one of my favorite quilts, and I learned a lot about the structure of the pattern.  I might actually make that baby quilt in chevrons after all!

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I Lost 143 Pounds

If you are a regular reader of the GloryQuilts blog, or if you know me “in real life,” you know that my fabric stash has become a real burden to me. If it wasn’t all neatly sorted and labeled, I would have to accept the “hoarder” label, but the fabric was out of sight and didn’t interfere with my daily life. Strangers visiting my house would never know about it. I could even show them all the Rubbermaid totes in the attic, and they would just say, “Wow, that’s a lot of fabric!”

I’m not stupid. I know how I got to this point. We had many very lean years in our life, when fabric purchases were simply impossible. Like a woman who lived through the Great Depression, I can’t bring myself to throw out something that is still in perfectly good, useful condition. It just piled up. I had remnants. Sometimes I cut up discarded clothing. People who knew that I quilt often gifted me with fabric scraps or even yardage, and I am grateful for their generosity. I was able to make many items out of scraps, especially from 2” strips, because that was how I saved most of the smaller scraps. I sold those items or gave them as gifts, used them as pattern prototypes, or kept them for my own home.

Intermittent Reinforcement is a term usually associated with gambling. People will keep feeding quarters into the slot machine if they are rewarded periodically with a small tinkle of coins. Lights flash, bells whistle, and the gambler feels justified. The phrase has other applications and is descriptive of my attitude toward my fabric stash. I knew I had a ridiculous amount of fabric – even non-quilting fabric – but every so often, someone wanted something specific and I was able to provide it. When a granddaughter wanted a certain costume made of powder blue knit fleece with a red and gold brocade cloak, I had it all, even to the pearl beads and supplies for a crown. When someone wanted some gray felted wool for elbow patches, I had it. Costumes for a community theater production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with 20 elaborate dresses? No problem. Got it covered. It made me feel good to be able to provide these things, especially when I couldn’t afford to contribute financially, and it justified my stash.

Then there was the simple sense of obligation. I had the fabric, and I couldn’t throw it out, so I had to use it up. I sewed and sewed, mostly with those 2” strips. I sorted them into colors and styles, trying to make fabric selection and planning more efficient. I made everything from potholders to queen-size bed quilts with 2” strips, but my stash never got any smaller. I am pretty sure that those things were multiplying at night, in their boxes in the attic.

In spite of all my justification, that guilt and the growing volume of strips (and other fabric) became an increasing burden to me. One day, about a month ago, a wild thought occurred to me: I could toss the whole thing in the dumpster. I instantly felt guilty and a little scared. I had been blessed – entrusted – with this fabric and shouldn’t be thinking of rejecting it. I sewed another wall quilt from 2″ strips.

This week, my parents came to visit us. My mother taught me to sew, about 45 years ago, and she is currently a member of Knitters and Stitchers, an organization that makes quilts, garments, hats, scarves and other items for various charities locally, nationwide and overseas. I visited one of their weekly meetings and enjoyed it very much. They listen to a devotional message, share prayer requests and updates, pray, and enjoy fellowship while they work on different projects. It’s a ministry of the New Hope Church near Minneapolis. They always need donations of supplies. In the past, I have unloaded yarn and baby quilt tops (more burdensome items that were low on my list of to-be-layered-and-basted-and-quilted-and-bound jobs) on them. This time, I asked my mom to take some of the quilting fabric.

I didn’t just dump the whole load on her. I sifted through 2” strips, saying things like, “This one is pretty. I’m keeping this one. This is ugly. You can have it. This one is beautiful, but the motifs are too big to be used in strips. It’s yours. This one has sentimental value: I bought it in Germany. Please take it.” (We left Germany in 1988.) She patiently sorted with me. We spent at least six hours on it, not including the trip to Walmart to buy totes so she could take it all back to Minnesota with her.

We went through all the totes full of 2” strips as well as the totes for Christmas fabric, novelty prints, Americana calico, and yarn-dyed homespun plaids. There were plastic boxes of flannel squares and strips, too. In the end, I completely emptied five 18-gallon totes and one 10-gallon tote. In addition, several totes that had been crammed to the bursting point are now only partially full.

As her pile of boxes and plastic bags grew, I decided to weigh them. Before they left this morning, I did the calculations. While I am amazed and overwhelmingly relieved to be released from the bondage, I feel slightly ill that I had accumulated such an obscene amount of unwanted fabric.

Are you sitting down?

I happily gave away 143.5 pounds of fabric.

There are 3.75 yards in each pound of calico, so that converts to… (still sitting?)

538 yards of fabric

At a conservative estimate, 500 yards of that was in 2” strips. If those strips were laid end-to-end, they would be 10,000 yards long. Or….

5.7 miles of 2” strips. Unwanted fabrics, mostly in lengths of 12” or less.

I still have an attic full of totes, all neatly sorted and labeled: corduroy, corduroy scraps, denim, old jeans, denim scraps, flannel, juvenile flannel, dark bottom weights, satin glitz, lace glitz, bright plisse, tulle, upholstery… but the quilt fabrics were my biggest albatross. I feel so much lighter and more enthusiastic about sewing than I have in a long time. I have the added blessing of knowing that someone will use those fabric pieces to make pretty and useful items for people who will be glad to receive them. God is good that way… lifting the burden and freeing me from the guilt I would have experienced if I had ever been brave enough to throw them in the dumpster.

I hope Mom comes back soon.

Sneak Peek…. another 2″ strip scrap quilt!

I actually made this one for myself, for a special space in my home. But when I did some measuring (AFTER the quilt was quilted), I realized the quilt is 2″ too big to hang in that space. So I will probably finish it up and sell it on etsy. It’s all done except the hand stitching of the binding and sleeve, and I will do that next time my hubby and I have time to sit down and watch a movie!

greentripspreview

New Autumn Runners

I just finished a long table runner to go coordinate with the shorter one I made last week. They are both scrappy, made from my bottomless stash of 2″ strips. Both sides are very pretty! I used the flange binding on both. I like it a lot! They will be available on etsy in a day or two. autumndiamonds

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