Monday, July 30, 2007

Playing with Color

Have you ever challenged yourself to use colors outside your comfort zone? The subtle interplay of sage green and lavender in this paisley print caught my eye and I wanted to explore it further. 

Did you know you could search for color palettes on the Internet? Just type the keywords into your browser and click. Up pop loads of inspirational photos in those color schemes.

I deliberately paired the paisley with green and lavender fabrics of similar value. 
I like the way these colors blend into one another. It makes you examine the quilt closer to discern the patchwork design.

A reader asked if I use patterns for my quilts. No, I generally draft a block to the size I need. In this case, I only had enough paisley for the centers of four 4" Variable Star blocks. The quilt is 10" x 10" -- just a tiny color study.

Even the smallest quilt deserves a label. My friend, Laurie Peters, designed and custom inked this one for me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nature Versus Nurture

Each year when my nieces' birthdays roll around, I am amazed by the absolute pinkness of products for young girls. The birthday cards are always glittery variations on a princess theme, accompanied by a fuchsia, hot pink or purple envelope. The first time I sent the girls a birthday card, I wrote across the back of the magenta colored missive, “There is definitely nothing this color in my home!” Who knows if they were born with an affinity for pink, or if it was thrust upon them by the makers of Barbie, Polly Pocket or Hello Kitty. Whether the result of nature or nurture, my nieces will be quick to tell you their favorite colors are pink and purple.

Having grown up in a household with three brothers, and raising two sons of my own, I suppose my color sense has a more masculine bent. It’s not that I can’t appreciate a pretty pink room or a dress in robin’s egg blue. It’s just that I’ve grown accustomed to the drab, dirty socks color associated with boys. My fabric stash has always consisted of medium to dark browns, greens, and blacks, with a smattering of reds and golds for contrast. It’s heavy with woven plaids, homespuns, and reproduction fabrics. If asked to make something with pastels, “bubble gum pink” is probably as close as I could get.
"Suitable Scraps"
15” x 18”
© DJB, 1989
The same is true for my favorite quilt designs. I’ve always preferred traditional patterns like Nine Patch, Bow Tie, Log Cabin and Jacob’s Ladder. Even my collection of doll quilts reflects this. The little Bow Tie was made from suiting and shirting samples from a tailor shop. I used an old shirt for the backing and tied the quilt with embroidery floss and buttons from my grandmother’s button box.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's the Little Things

My friends and I started making doll quilts in the mid 1980s and we’ve never stopped. We’re inspired by many styles of quilt as well as the work of our favorite professional quilters. But more than anything, we are encouraged and challenged by one another.

We often joke that the surest form of flattery is having one of our quilts reproduced by a friend. Sometimes, we save one another the trouble and just make a few duplicates to gift or exchange. As a result, our doll quilt collections contain “sister quilts” that reflect our friendship and admiration for one another’s needlework.

12" x 16" 1989
This Variable Star quilt was a collaboration between my friend Kathy S. and myself. The fabrics and quilt design were inspired by an antique doll quilt. I liked hers so much that I promised to hand quilt it for her if she’d piece one for me.

I love the look of dense quilting, even on a small project. But to prevent stiffness from all that stitching, I used flannel as a filler instead of batting. It left the quilt soft but unfortunately, the texture from the quilting only shows up on the back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There's a Kind of Hush

Can you imagine how many people spent the weekend reading the last book in the Harry Potter series? It must have set some sort of world record for number of people simultaneously reading the same thing. If the quietude in our home was indicative of other Harry obsessed households, there must have been “a kind of hush, all over the world.”

My boys prepared themselves for the final installment by rereading the entire J. K. Rowling series. They coordinated their efforts perfectly. When volume 7 arrived in Saturday’s mail, volume 6 had just been finished by brother #1 and passed along to brother #2, with the promise not to reveal the climactic ending.

Their silent concentration was only interrupted by the occasional query, “Hey, what page are you on?” and a brief dinner break which fortified them for the long evening ahead. They actually finished their respective books at the same time (1:30 A.M.) and met in the hallway outside their bedrooms to make the ceremonious pass-off.

They’ve remained true to their word. No one read the last chapter first or prematurely “spilled the beans” as to how the saga ends. I can think of few better tests of fraternal loyalty. It’s good to see what honorable young men we’ve raised!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Things First

I have a guilty pleasure (besides coffee, chocolate, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). I love doll quilts. They serve no practical purpose other than to make me smile, which they’ve managed to do since making my first one in 1986.

This was it, a basic nine patch in pastel colors. For some reason, I tea dyed the whole quilt when it was finished, perhaps to take some of the "newness" off. It's a trick I learned from the "Little Quilts" gals. A tea bath helps blend the colors and gives your quilt a soft, aged appearance.

Nine Patch
14” x 19”
Machine pieced , hand quilted

Diane Burdin, 1986

Friday, July 13, 2007

Marimekko Surprise

You may wonder how I decide which quilts to post about next. It's pretty random, really. I use those I can get my family to photograph. Allowing for factors like timing, lighting, setting, mood (of the photographer) and how much groveling I need to do, there can be quite a wait for quality quilt photos.

Today's quilt is up next simply because the pictures are already on my computer. Be forewarned! It's not my usual style or color palette.

It began with a shopping bag left on my doorstep, brimful of Marimekko fabric. These contemporary, decorator weight designs come from Finland and are sold at Crate and Barrel stores. A good friend who worked at C&B left them for me as a surprise!

Who can resist free fabric, even when it veers wildly from your usual style? This print became my theme, mostly because there was enough to use as a border. Let's see, day-glow squares on vibrant orange... What quilt block might work with that?Four Patch? Nine Patch? Both seemed too ordinary, too predictable.

For the unexpected, I turned to the cover of Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Patchwork for inspiration. Based on that quilt, my wacky orange fabric would actually become a neutral!

I sewed 3”, 6”, 9”, and 12" Square in a Square blocks from some of the brightest fabrics I had ever seen. The challenge was to balance both color and block size throughout the quilt. Near the end, as I ran out of usable bits, it posed quite a challenge!

The finished quilt went to the fabric gifter herself, just in time for her 17th birthday. She loved it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thinking Outside the Box

For several years, I’ve collected Shaker boxes, handmade by Marty Travis of Fairbury, Illinois. Every now and then I add a new box to the stack. This time, it was a tiny red one, like the cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae. 

When the package arrived, I tore through the wrappings and pulled out a delicate oval box, rich in color and smooth to the touch, the kind thing that just feels good in your hand, like beach glass or a well-worn river rock.

My family doesn't always share my weakness for hand crafted items, and it didn’t take long for my son to ask,"What's the point of a box that's too small to hold anything?"

I explained that small Shaker boxes may originally have been used to hold pins, needles or buttons for sewing. They might have stored spices or garden seeds. They could be used at a desk for postage stamps, or on a dressing table for jewelry. Finally, in exasperation, I said, ”Use your imagination-- It's big enough to hold a dream!"

They are men, after all, and can’t help their lack of feminine sensibilities. I wrote them this little reminder to "think outside the box." 

Bright Shaker boxes
stacked in perfect symmetry
hold all of my dreams.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

That's Odd!

Last week, I had a dental check-up. The dentist's office is housed in a charming old residential area of modest homes and well-kept yards. Our summertime visits are greeted by a garden of ornamental grasses, pink climbing roses, sedum, and an aptly named butterfly bush.

It wasn’t until my wheelchair required us to use the ramp at the rear entrance that we discovered the beauty of the back yard. Its shade supports a host of hosta (my favorite) as well as this oddity. We finally remembered to bring the camera to get a few pictures:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hurrah for Red, White and Blue!

Collecting fabrics is hands-down my favorite part of quilt making. After working in a quilt shop for a few years, I've amassed an enviable stash of colors and prints, mostly reproductions of nineteenth century classics, or what many people call "Civil War Repros." I'm not a purist, but my taste runs decidedly traditional.

I've been making blocks for a patriotic sampler quilt. There’s no pattern, just random blocks I like. As long as they're made from vintage style red, white and blue fabrics, they all look great together. 

It’s best to have all your blocks completed before arranging them into a final design, but I can never wait. When I get a few blocks that fit nicely, I can't resist sewing them together. 

It' a work in progress. There are always more blocks I'd like to add: an American flag,   eagle, string pieced star...

Hurrah for Red, White and Blue!