Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dresden Day at the Beach

Its SAQA Benefit Auction donation time again and this year's Dresden plate/fan quilt is inspired by colorful umbrellas at the beach. It started with a sketch on my iPad.

Sketch of design idea done in Paper53 on my iPad
Mock-up of design
The design process included mocking up the whole design in EQ7, removing the umbrellas and drafting the background landscape in EQ7 for piecing, drafting the umbrellas as separate paper pieced units, and the really fun part -- picking fabrics.

Background for piecing

Foundations for umbrellas

I live in Houston and our house flooded during Hurricane Harvey, so my quilt studio is very reduced in size, and most of my stash that wasn't damaged is in storage. I did treat myself to the purchase of Marcia Derse's beautiful set of half yards from her Palette collection, and those are what I used for everything but the sky.

Cutting and ironing set-up on kitchen counter

Pre-cutting pieces for foundation
piecing the purple umbrella

To piece the background I used methods I learned from Ruth B McDowell and Ruth Powers. I traced the background pattern (reversed) onto freezer paper, added registration marks and then cut out each piece as a template. for a bigger piece, I would make two copies, one to leave intact and one to cut up. Templates were ironed onto the wrong side of fabrics, cut out with 1/4 inch seam allowance, registration marks were transferred, and then the pieces were aligned and sewn together in sections (a la foundation piecing) and then section were sewn together. Umbrellas were made separately as free-standing units that could be positioned, stuck down with a little Roxanne Glue and machine appliqued. Before adding the umbrellas, I decided I did not like the sky -- too ominous looking, so I auditioned some alternatives. I also changed out part of the water.

Original pieced sky.
Sky alternative 1, printed fabric with clouds
Sky alternative 1, hand-dyed fabric from Frieda Anderson
Final choice with sky and part of water replaced,
and umbrellas appliqued in place
In preparation for hand embroidery, I fused the batting just to the top. After doing the hand work, I added the back fabric and machine quited to add contours to the sand dunes a pebbled path, clouds, etc.
Embroidery using hand-dyed perl cotton (#8) from
Laura Wasilowski and doubled 12wt threads from Jane Sassaman to make waves, birds and grasses.
Completed piece
This was a lot of fun to make and brought back great memories of the beautiful beaches, clear skies and turquoise water of the Caribbean.

Thanks for reading -- comments welcome.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dresden Fireworks

Last year I donated a small quilt to the SAQA Benefit Auction called Dresden Daisies The asymmetric paper-pieced Dresden Plates reminded me of fireworks exploding in the sky and seemed a good choice to try for the 2017 auction. Check it out.

I used an app on my iPad to sketch out the general idea. 

Sketch of design idea done in Paper53 on my iPad

The design process included drafting the individual units in EQ7, and selecting a color scheme and fabric. Based on past experience and what catches my eye when I browse through the SAQA auction catalog, the brighter and more hi-contrast the better.
EQ7 blocks

Color choices -- I only had a fat quarter of the purple-blue background, but it seemed perfect.

Just like with the Daisies, the 'aerial explosions' were paper pieced individually and then appliqued onto the matching background fabric. The background behind the explosion is then cut-away to allow removal of the foundations. I used That Patchwork Place Foundation paper. It is feeds through the ink-jet nicely and tears off really easily, even using a regular stitch length. Amazing!
Quilt top with aerial explosions appliqued on
 The Dresden Plate centers were 'fussy cut' and appliqued on with a little stuffing. The top was sprayed basted to wool batting and then embroidered with 3 different hand-dyed #8 perl cottons from Laura Wasilowski. I again used the iPad app to try out some different ideas for the stitching.

Photo of quilt top layered with wool batting that was then imported into iPad app to add stitching ideas.

Dresden Fireworks -- stitched, machine quilted and bound.

The backing was added after the embroidery was done, which makes hiding all the knots and thread ends really simple. Machine quilting in-the-ditch and a few stars in the back ground secure the layers. The backing is a heavier cotton sateen with a 'print on demand' image created with permission from one of my sister-in-law's paintings. I used up all (and I do mean ALL) the remaining background fabric for the 'butted' binding. There are folded triangles in the upper corners for hanging.

I also machine quilted the label info in cursive. I used red King Tut, but it doesn't show quite a much as I'd like. I might redo this before sending it off -- if I'm lucky, I'll never see it again.

UPDATE: I shared a photo with Laura Wasilowski and she posted a very nice plug.
Thanks Laura. Love the thread!

UPDATE, UPDATE: Dresden Fireworks sold for $150 in the SAQA benefit auction. Yeah!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ESR1 K303R

It is that time of year -- October, the weather is cooling off and pink is everywhere. Its Breast Cancer Awareness month. Seems only fitting to show something breast cancer-ish.

In my day job, I've spent most of my career working on breast cancer research studies, and on the quilty side, right now, I'm slowly ( I do mean slowly) working on a wall-sized quilt that will be a surprise gift for a friend. The english-paper-pieced hexagon construction, which is appliqued onto a background, represents part of the sequence of the estrogen receptor (ESR1), an important protein in breast cancer biology. The sequence includes a mutation that my friend has spent many years working on. The mutation is known as K303R (303rd amino acid in the protein is changed from a lysine [K] to an arginine [R], which alters the function of the protein). For the more biologically savvy -- yes, I know that Deoxy-ribose (D in DNA) is a pentagon, not a hexagon. Too bad. This is art, or my version anyway. ;-)

DNA molecule appliqued onto background

I pieced the DNA backbone and nucleic acids (light hexagons) and then carved stamps and printed the base pairs on each 'nucleotide pair' to represent the sequence. The whole gene is about 3000 base pairs, so obviously this is only a tiny fraction.

A-T stamp
A-T and G-C stamps with test prints

DNA after printing

I have 'big stitched' some long swooping curves across the surface and am now starting to fill in the regions that the curves define with machine quilting.

Layered and 'Big Stitched'

One of the first things I did was put 'ribbon candy' in between two closely spaced parallel sets of lines. I'm using Magnifico 40wt or KingTut 40wt in the needle and Aurifil 50wt in the bobbin. It was supposed to look a bit like a cell membrane. I'm really bad at ribbon candy, so it looks uneven and is disappointingly wimpy to boot.

Detail of double ribbon candy
Detail of ribbon Candy

I recently got to take a week long workshop at the John C Campbell Folk School with Lori Kennedy. Wow, what fun and what a great learning experience! I especially learned a lot about making the quilting a more visible part of the design. I needed a kick in the pants about this because I tend to second guess myself and am too timid. However, as Lori says, "when in doubt add more lines", so I went back and added another layer of quilting. I'm calling this design variation 'double ribbon candy'. I like the look -- it fills the space better and I think it is an improvement. For now, it is probably as good as it gets, given the busy-ness of the backgound fabric. I have lots more work to fill up the arest of the areas.

Doodled pattern

I love the organic, biology-like pattern of the background fabric (its actually the 'wrong' side of a Kaffe Fassett Millefiori), but it is turning out to be a huge challenge getting any quilting to show, that I did not adequately consider at the start. I will probably live to regret the choice, but for now I'm forging ahead. My current mantra is 'if a little is good, more is better'.

Get out there and vote! Get your mammogram and thanks for reading -- comments are most welcome.


PS Other DNA quilts in the series cardiac DNA, cardiac DNA continued, and  More DNA.
PPS This quilt is also pictured in AMSTAT News in the column about what statisticians do when they are not doing statistics.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


One of my very dear colleagues is an avid gardener and this spring when he got starts for his backyard 'farm', he got some for me too. Ichiban eggplant. These are wonderful, prolific eggplants and we are still getting fruits. The eggplant 'fruits' are long and thin, with thin edible skins and are absolutely delicious. I wanted to surprise my friend and thank him.

Ichiban Eggplant Ichiban Eggplant -- quilt

This little 9x21 wall quilt (hopefully to be hung in my friend's office) was drawn free-hand but loosely based on numerous images that I have of the real thing. The eggplant and stems are raw-edge applique and are held down with free-motion edge stitching in a heavy purple thread. The free-motion stitched lettering is embellished with hand embroidery.

Detail of embroidery Ichiban Back with fast corners

Ichiban detail

I also free-motion stitched my name and the year -- this is getting easier and at least this time I got the spelling right. The detail also shows my signature couched perl cotton in the ditch next to the binding. I stitch on the folded binding, pull it to the back and glue-baste in place, and then couch the perl cotton down with a narrow zigzag to catch the edge of the binding on the back.

If you have, thanks for reading. Would love to hear what you think.


PS One additional embellishment -- ANTS, beautiful irridescent purple and green ANTS.
Detail of beaded ants

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Raw-edge applique from the back

These small flower picture quilts were all made with a method that involves stitching the raw edge appliques from the back.The process is as follows:
  • Select a relatively simple photo with high contrast
  • Use photoshop or an online tool to crop, skew, etc and then posterize to get more fabric-able colors and areas
  • Make a tracing that will be reversed on stabilizer or muslin that will stay in the quilt
Original photo Posterized photo
  • Make a reversed tracing on stabilizer or muslin, that will stay in the quilt
  • The tracing goes on the back and can be layered with thin batting, and then the background
  • The quilt is built from the background to the foreground by laying the next layer right side up on the background, turning the quilt over, stitching on the lines and then cutting away fabric on the front very close to the stitiching line.
Line drawing, reversed Columbine quilt

Original photo Posterized photo
  • Once the entire applique is stitched on, add a backing fabric and free motion quilt around the applique to secure and add details
  • Add addition quilting in the background and embellish. In te Gaillardia quilt, I added tiny beads to simulate flowers parts and ants. Note that the leaves were reduced in number and slimplified.
  • The binding is entire done by machine and includes a couched yarn edging. Fast fold corners provide a way to hang.
Gaillardia quilt with ants Gaillardia quilt back

Dendrobium Orchid
Original photo Posterized photo
Here the background was removed completely and the fabrics in the flower were carefully positioned.

Dendrobium quilt

Water Lily
Original photo Posterized photo
I like the background and lily pads on this one, but am less satisfied with the flower. Generally, I like the black thread outlining the shapes, but here the flower is so light that the contrast is too high. A pink or white thread would probably have been better.

I used a polyester felt in this one and it made things very stiff and difficult to stitch. I think I like using a thin leave in stabilizer and no batting to the applique part. It is also important to cut away unnecessary layers from the top to avoid having many layers of fabric to stitch through. This one was also faced instead of being bound.
Water Lily quilt (11X12)
These little gems were relatively quick to make and a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading ...