Clamming up: quilting for Bonnard

I must have made, tried and discarded a dozen different templates.

My original plan was to quilt Bonnard with a random scatter of leaves, but no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t find an assortment of leaf shapes I liked, which were the right size and which were simple enough to quilt with my not exactly tiny hand-quilting stitches. My subconscious was at work, I think, or perhaps it was the quilt, trying to gain my attention and tell me what it wanted.

And then I realised that the quilting wasn’t the point of this quilt, it was a supplementary feature, an attractive way of holding the layers together which incidentally added visual richness and texture. And there it was. I’d do a simple all-over repeat. What about a Baptist Fan, one of my favourites? Still not quite right.

I’ve come full circle, I think. I’m quilting clamshells, like my bestest and favouritest quilt of all, the one that lives on my bed. The ones on Bonnard will be larger, at 4 inches across rather than 2½ inches, but I wanted them to fit within the proportions of the squares and blocks I’ve used to make Bonnard. As an incidental bonus, the larger size will mean I get it done more quickly, and the interlocking clamshell shapes mean the stitching all travels in one direction so I won’t be twirling the quilt around. It’ll sit on the table, its own weight providing the tension I need to hold things flat, and I won’t be draped in acres of cosy quilt at this hottest time of year. As an extra benefit, my plain white teacup is exactly the right size to form the template I mark around, plus it won’t bend and deteriorate like a card template.

Win-win all round, I’d say.


The Tree of Life part 9: Taking Root

So, we’re there at last. The big scary bit of template making is over. The Tree has sunk its roots.

The Tree takes root

The Tree takes root

And before some of you point out that the roots are actually in the sea, I know, I know, but I didn’t want a big splodge of dark brown ‘soil’ in the middle of the quilt. Think of it as a hydroponic tree, if that helps… salt tolerant, too. It’s mythical. It can grow wherever it likes. After all, what other tree grows both grapes and sunflowers (see Part 1 for the design)? And the grass is growing on the sea too, so it’s altogether wrong, but looks right, or will when it’s done.

Now that this bit’s finished, I can give myself permission to start work on the strip piecing for the trunk and branches. I’m going to cut this beautiful tree up into manageable sections, and assemble trunk and branches separately. I’ll use line-up marks on trunk and branch to show where they join, and number/name all the pieces with symbols to match. How I’m actually going to apply the pieces is still slightly mysterious to me, but I expect I’ll work it out. I’m liking the soluble applique tape I used for the fish, but you can’t run it accurately around curves. It just holds the piece to the background, like pinning. I’ll probably use my new Japanese applique glue stick, a scary fluorescent yellow, but at least you can see where you’ve been. It washes out too, and doesn’t stiffen the fabric at all or gum up the machine needle.

Fabric selection for strip piecing the roots, trunk and branches

Fabric selection for strip piecing the roots, trunk and branches

Here’s the fabric selection for the tree. I think the roots are going to be in the paler end of the spectrum, to give good contrast with the water background, and the colours will get darker towards the tips of the branches, to look silhouetted against the sky. Probably. Possibly… I don’t want to waste fabric, so if I have to turn some pieces round in the layout to make good use of the pieced strips, I shall, even if this means the colours grade the wrong way.


Now that I’ve got this far, I can contemplate how much work is still to be done to get the top finished:

Make the strip pieced background for the trunk and branches. Cut out and apply to the background. Sew down. Select fabrics for leaves. Cut out and apply to background. Sew down. Select fabric for birds, in branches and in sky outside the circle. Cut out and apply. Sew down. Select fabrics for fruit and flowers. Cut out and apply. Sew down. That’s the top done. Then it’s time to quilt.

Oh. Help. I won’t think about that for the time being. I wish I had a bigger throat in my sewing machine… I have such a beautiful vision of what I want to do, but somehow I feel it’s going to get dumbed down because of the technical restriction a small throat imposes. Oh, and my limited capabilities, of course!

Remind me to make something MUCH simpler next time.

Tree of Life part 8: Growing the Tree

I’ve cracked the problem.

How I did it

How I did it

The top half. Ruler shows scale.  It's big, isn't it?

The top half. Ruler shows scale. It’s big, isn’t it?

It’s old school, labour intensive and uses a fair bit of paper, but I’m making a full size template, scaled up from a grid I drew over the design drawing.  One half inch square on the drawing = a three and a half inch square on the paper. To keep things under control and the size manageable, I’m doing it in two halves: 1) trunk and branches, and 2) trunk and roots. Here’s work in progress.

In position on the background: detail

In position on the background: detail

Tomorrow, I'll do the lower halfof the trunk and the roots.

Tomorrow, I’ll do the lower half
of the trunk and the roots.

Once the templates are completed, I can start dividing them into easy sections, lay them out and assess how large an area of strip piecing I need.  What I want to do is get straight onto the cutting mat and start putting the strips together. What I’m going to do is get the template finished before I allow myself to pick up the rotary cutter and bring out the mat. Who knew this quilt was going to be such an exercise in self control and discipline…?

One of the eight chairs

One of the eight chairs

Also on the menu today was finishing the reupholstery of the dining chairs.  Remember those 12 people I’ve got coming for lunch on Christmas Day?  At present, I can only seat a quarter of them, so this is urgent.  And boring, which is why I’ve been putting it off. But it’s done now. 8 chairs redone, mended (they were very wobbly) and ready. Not perfect, but done. It’s a nice linen blend, but out of the bargain box at Spotlight, so I was able to do all 8 for about $6.

I didn’t get out into the garden today as I’d hoped.  The latest corner  to be developed has a thick layer of compost on it, which I’ve watered well so that the moisture seeps down to the hard, compacted layer underneath, and stays there for a bit to soften it up.  I’m supposed to be getting out there with my fork, and turning the soil over to at least a fork’s depth, mixing the poor soil and the compost to open up the structure.  The whole area’s been flooded so often that the soil is very poor, all nutrients leached out, and it’s slightly acidic.  Hopefully by improving the soil structure, and thickly mulching anything planted in that area, I’ll aid drainage when the Wet comes, and we won’t have standing water, or at least, not for long.  The banana tree I planted in that corner is about twice the size it was, and it’ll help take up excess moisture too.

I did find time to make soup and bickies though. Recipes I’ve posted before: peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, and roasted tomato soup.  Yes, I know it’s boiling hot and soup might not be considered the most appropriate food, but the Husband loves soup, it’s easy, and because it’s home made I know he’s not getting stuck into some foul greasy fast food somewhere…

OK, I think that’s it for now.  Tomorrow and Tuesday are work days, so I won’t have much progress to report on the Tree.  I expect, though, that knowing me, I’ll find something to natter about.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend