Saturday, March 15, 2014

Asilomar Robins

This spring I finally got to attend Empty Spools at Asilomar in Pacific Grove California. Fabulous quilting teachers and classes aside -- what a cool place!

I signed up for a class with Ruth Powers. She does really beautiful 'picture' quilts. You start with a image -- maybe a photograph -- and turn it into a piece-able design. This is definitely NOT for making bed quilts or even lap quilts. This is ART. I have taken a class like this before but there is a lot to learn -- especially about colors, how to break the image up to get the right effect, and tricks to getting it put together.

Some of my fellow students were more experienced, and more ambitious. I chose to make something about 18x24", based on this picture of Robins at the birdbath outside my window. The picture is very fuzzy because it is blown up from a tiny piece of a bigger photo.

Although this is clearly a parent and baby robin, and I love the strong directional lighting, the curve of the birdbath and the reflection, when you get down to actually tracing lines, the picture leaves a lot to the imagination. I went to the week long class armed with a full size enlargement of the photo, and a bunch of robin pictures off the web to use for reference. I also went with a suitcase full of fabric, freezer paper and lots of other tools (rulers, colored pencils, sharpie markers, scissors, etc).

 The first major accomplishment, which took me nearly 2 days, was to create a tracing paper pattern and a freezer paper drawing (reversed) that gets cut up to make the templates for cutting fabrics and sewing everything together.
Freezer paper template -- marked, and numbered.
I took a picture, with my phone, of the freezer paper template, before cutting into it, thinking that it would be a nice reminder of the steps and that I would post the picture here. Thank goodness I did. It also proved VERY useful as a reference to figure out where things came from and where they needed to go back to.

By the end of the week I had the birds basically done. This is not exactly a speed piecing kind of project, and I had to redo one whole section because I didn't like how the colors looked.
End of class picture from Ruth showing finished birds and auditioning birdbath fabrics.
Since coming home, I've been (very slowly) working on the birdbath and the reflection.

Work in progress on the design wall at home.
Although I got some great Marcia Derse fabric for the water (sweet corn swirl), I realized that I didn't have what I needed for the reddish bird reflections. After ordering several possibilities from eQuilter, I found one that is not perfect but seems OK (front right below). In the process, I have nearly used up my fat quarter of 'sweet corn swirl' and turned several other nice pieces of fabric into swiss cheese.
Fabrics for the birdbath water (and rejects)

I have made the water section twice -- once using the original design, and second time using more improvisational piecing to make strips that I sewed together to make a small piece of 'fabric' that I then used to cut out the whole section.
First water version, original pieced design

Second water version, improvisationally pieced

You be the judge, but I'm liking the second one. Next steps  will be to move on to the edge of the bird bath and then the background. I may do some more improvisational 'fabric' construction for parts of the background.

All the best,


  1. Definitely, I like the second one best because it really gives the impression of water with the horizontal offset lines like ripples. And it will look even better when you quilt it! Will you get a little in there for the baby?

    It was such a pleasure having you in my class!

  2. Am thinking about a little adjustment to hint at shadow of the baby. quilting will help that too.