Sunday, July 17, 2011

"A Moment of Zen" part 2

Now that the submission deadline is past, I feel comfortable showing the rest of this quilt. We had left off with the central yin/yang circle in its fabric frame. I took the challenge fabric (and some other Hoffman fabric from my stash - an alternate colorway of the 2008 challenge - a bit of a private joke for me) and fussy cut the fish parts, and positioned them on the background:

The fusible web I tried for this quilt is Shades SoftFuse and I was really very pleased with it. I've tried most fusibles on the market, and the last heavily appliqued quilt I made was very stiff and hard to sew through once you got 3 or more layers glued down. This stuff may not be as adesive as some other fusibles, but it works great (I would recommend always sewing the edges down with this product), and it does not add a lot of bulk or stiffness to the fabric. It really does work as advertised, and I'll be buying more of it in the future.
If you look closely, you'll see that the red "scales" on the purple fish (and the feathering in its tail) are petals from the challenge flowers. The gold dorsal stripes are also cut from the challenge fabric, as are the "whiskers" on the top fish. The fish on top is composed completely from the challenge fabric, using the flower petals for the front part of the fish, and some fussy-cut leaves for its fins. The fins on the bottom fish are composed of peacock feathers from the other fabric.

I  agonized over border designs for days. I didn't want to detract from the center of the quilt, and I wanted something pieced. I poured through the Oriental design books I had in the house, and my inspiration came from a Dover book "Japanese Design Motifs" which is basically a collection of family crests from the 19th century. Virtually every shape, animal, and trade are represented in that book, but that's where I got the idea for interlocking squares.

I fired up EQ7 and designed 2 blocks: one for the end squares and one for the inside squares. I made the decision not to foundation-piece these, and I lived to regret it. It was quite a challenge to piece these, but I got it done.

I then tried a trapunto-type technique where I sewed a layer of batting around my fish and then cut it away from the non-fish areas before making my sandwich.
Quilting, next:
And a view from the back. I didn't do too much quilting, because I didn't want to take away from the fish, and I didn't want to screw the quilt up. almost all the quilting was done with Sulky invisible thread on top and white thread in the bobbin. This combination seemed to work really well and I hardly had any thread breakage at all.
I got the binding on (the same fabric as the dark part of the yin/yang symbol in the center), and then needed to figure out something for the corners. They were rather bare. I had attempted a quilted motif in one corner, but I hated how it looked and picked it out. The emptiness does give the eyes a place to rest, which I thought was nice. I finally, after consulting with some friends on the quilting group at LiveJournal, decided on some beading.

I made a floral cluster of 6 beads in the intersections of the border pattern, and beaded a fringe with some lovely iridescent amber glass pony beads and some copper flat beads that I picked up at Costume Con this past April.
And here is the finished quilt, which is now in the hands of the Hoffman Challenge judges.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hoffman Challenge, 2011: "A Moment of Zen"

I am very pleased to announce that I have an entry for this year's Hoffman Challenge in a Priority Mail box waiting to be taken to the Post Office today. I had been stuck on what to do with the gorgeous oriental print that is this year's challenge fabric for months on end.

I knew I wanted to do something with applique; and to turn the print "on its head", so to speak. I didn't want flowers to be the main theme, and I wasn't going to try to some crazy pieced thing because I've looked at the previous years' winners in that category, and I simply didn't have enough time to attempt something like those.

So I was kicking around a lot of ideas, and then I discovered an artist on Etsy, Kailey Lang, who is just fabulous. I bought some of her fish prints, and I just really started to love the visual look of koi fish, and the concept for my challenge quilt presented itself to me. The concept is not new, and it even showed up in Avatar: The Last Airbender  as Tui and La.

I sketched a fish, and then traced that sketch onto vellum:
These were retraced onto freezer paper to make templates.

I further constrained my design process by limiting myself to stash fabrics. This is fine with me as I have a large collection of Asian prints, and I got to use an out of print Hoffman fabric which was an alternate colorway to the 2008 challenge fabric (I find this amusing, and I hope it's not lost on the judges). I also used some fabrics I purchased to audition for the last Hours in the Garden quilt I made for my niece's wedding, but didn't make the cut for that quilt. they worked perfectly here. for my Yin/Yang base.

I used a waste bin as a large circle template and cut 2 circles of light and dark material  Then I think I drew the inside curve in chalk and freehand cut with a rotary cutter through both light and dark layers, leaving me enough to make 2 of these. Then a lot of pinning ensued and I slowly pieced the 2 pieces together. I clipped the outer curves at sewing time to ease the fabrics together, and they laid perfectly flat when I pressed them towards the dark fabric. The background is completely pieced, and not applique.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where the quilt really starts to take shape.