Monday, December 27, 2010

After-Christmas Energy

Here's hoping that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that you got the things you were hoping for.  I really enjoyed our time with the boys and their families.  All three of our sons, their wives, and their children joined us and my dad for lunch at our house.  Then we loaded up the kids and lots of food and went over to my in-laws to have a meal with them and their whole family.  It was a bit too busy and crowded but it was wonderful to have the whole family together under one roof for a few hours of laughing, eating, and gift-giving.

I spent much of Christmas Eve in the studio since there were few preparations to worry about for Christmas.  All the gifts were wrapped, the food prepped and ready to go, and the house decorated just enough to give a true sense of Christmas without having to work for days and weeks.  I don't mind decorating, it's the clean-up that gets me, so we decorate without going overboard so that putting away decorations is doable.  Now, to find someone to do it!

I love to build quilts that have piecing in the center and a wide border with applique on the edges.  This gives me the best of both worlds: the speed and ease of piecing and the beauty and creativity of applique.  I decided to do the same on the Disappearing Four Patch quilt that I've been working on.  This combination of piecing and applique is becoming my signature for large quilts.  I tried playing with my Accuquilt Studio Cutter and realized that there are numerous possibilities when I begin with a circle shape then cut it down into various parts for different flowers.  To show you what I mean, I've taken a few photos of my process.

The beginnings of a flower--can you see it?
 For this first photo, I started with a circle, then cut it down twice by moving the pieces around on the cutter and running it through the machine again.  For this shape, I began with six layers of fabric and kept them together through every step of the process.  That way the changes happened to all six pieces at the same time, and I came out with the same exact shape on every one.  I simply spread them out in a circle so that the points were touching at approximately the same place.  The shapes become the petals of one flower.  By removing one petal, I ended up with a starfish shape, but I like the flower shape.  Add leaves, a vine and a yellow pistil and we'd have a pretty good applique.  

Now, if you try this, don't throw away the pieces that are taken off when you run them through a second or third time.  Those pieces are perfect for forming other flowers.  I played with the castoffs from several attempts and discovered that thinking outside the box works.  These hollyhocks were made strictly from castoffs.  I added the stem so that you can envision the flowers a little easier.

Cute hollyhocks, gonna have to play with this.

Before I got the hollyhocks, I tried to form flowers for some time.  Some attempts worked, others didn't.  It's a matter of playing and seeing a design as you work through the process.

I started out playing with a cheap purple fabric that I happened to have on hand.  I figured that if I tossed everything, it wouldn't be a huge loss.  But the more I played and liked what I came up with, the more I wanted to try other things.  I decided to add some yellow to see if that one color could make some of the not-so-great flowers work.

Just getting shapes on fabric.  Not a lot here, but still at the beginning of the process.

 Yellow makes a big difference.  Some things that I would not have tried on the quilt, like the small circle shape on the bottom of this photo, found its way once I added the yellow.  Why, or how, do I make the decisions, I honestly can't say.  I tried different things and liked some.  Others I wasn't crazy about but tried not to let that get me down.  Instead, I snapped a photo and moved on.
Using two or more shapes to form one flower.

The same shape repeated.
 After a while of playing, I began auditioning the shapes I liked using different colors and adding leaves, stems, and stamens.  When I liked the outcome, I found a place on the quilt for it.  At first I simply pinned the flowers down, but that became time consuming and it was difficult to move the quilt and keep the flower shapes stable unless I added lots of pins.  After a while, I got brave and pressed the flowers in place.  The iron-on adhesive is fairly permanent, removing the shapes leaves a residue on the quilt and destroys the flower shapes, so I had to be sure that I wanted the flower in a chosen spot before pressing.  Eventually, I got very brave and pressed as I added flowers to the border.  Patience is not my strong suit!

Some of the "I'm not crazy about these" shapes appear below.  Don't spend much time looking at them, they are pretty horrible, but part of the process means editing out what doesn't work.

Reminded me too much of a swastika.

I tried but the shape isn't any better with some added way!
This could work for a tulip, but it didn't make the cut anyway.

Yucky, is this a person?

And we'll leave it at this for now.  Every creative idea takes time and energy.  As creative people, we have to play and try different things to figure out what works and what doesn't.  The key is to keep trying and to take notes in some form (photos, writing, journals, sketches, etc.) so that when we come back to the process, we can replicate the good work we've done and avoid the work we aren't so crazy about.

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