Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Twisted Sister

WARNING...this is a total photo bomb.

It is Sunday.  I am finally getting photos of my newest show quilt which I call The Twisted Sister loaded to my blog to show.  After judging is completed, I will launch this post on Tuesday.  This quilt is at MQX.  Though I have shown some pictures of it during construction, I realize it has been a good long while.  Plus, somewhere in this process, I got superstitious, and opted to keep finished photos under my hat until it made it's first show debut.  

It is at MQX.  Midwest that is.  This is my first time going to this show anywhere but in NH, and I am teaching a full load of mostly sold-out classes.

I know what you are thinking.  "I have seen these fabrics before".  Well, sorta yes. My "Bouquet Royale" quilt that came out a year and a half ago, had similar colors - orange and green.  It was fussy-cut hexies, albeit a different type, but similar none the less.  The backgrounds are both champagne silk.  I even had the green silk dyed to match one of the greens that was used before.  Sometimes when you have colors and fabrics that you really love, it is extremely difficult to completely reinvent the wheel.
"The Twisted Sister" is different though.  A lot different.  These are traditional hexagons rather than the elongated hexies (Lucy Boston type).  I loved the process of hand-piecing them the first time, so I started on another quilt.
Around October of last year, I had all 21 of these clusters pieced.  Actually, I made 24, and the final design ended up not needing 3.  Each one takes about 5 hours to select fabrics, cut the pieces and hand stitch each hexagon.

 I love how they are all really different, and dont really resemble the fabrics they came from.  I don't use the hexagon paper pieces, or whip stitches.  I trace the line where I want to stitch and put a running stitch there.  That way I can press them however works for machine quilting.  There are few things that irk me as a machine quilter as all open seams.  They may make the quilt lay flatter (really they do not!), or so the piecer thinks, but they compromise the quilts's integrity by putting inherent stress on the seam, and the open seam means it cannot be ditch stitched.  My show quilts must allow for ditching.

It's an understatement to say that this quilt went together without a plan.  In June of 2015, I had a wild thought of using the zebra print on the blocks.  I never really intended for this quilt to finish looking like its predecessor.  I don't think I ever really thought they were all that similar at this point in the making.  I was feeling a bit wild at the time, and was clearly not thinking whatsoever about HOW I would quilt that crap!  This quilt would need some serious calming for it to be remotely competitive.   And the jury is still out on that point, since MQX is it's first outing.
The hexie clusters were appliqued onto the zebra pieces.  Because the zebra print was also fussy cut, it had bias all over the place -- not exactly what you want on the outer edges!  It got a major dose of starch until I decided what to do with these.
From the zebra, came some bright pink and orange stars.  The outer fabrics were Cotton Couture, which is pretty in color, but my problem was that I loved the pink and orange, BUT it just did not look good on the more blue and green hexie clusters.  Around this point, too, I had decided I wanted to use the champagne silk as the background.  No way was I using black, even if it would look good. I'd just quilted "Illuminations" which has deep black/navy batik as a background, and it was harder than I want to deal with.  On top of that, the quilting more or less disappears.   My aging eyes don't appreciate quilting the darker fabrics at all.  The quilting on this needed to show (since it was going to be a challenge to get it to show on the blocks).
Despite all the work invested, I ripped off the orange and pink points, and ordered the green silk (below)...I knew this matched all blocks beautifully, even if I had used this color on Bouquet Royale.
These points were made with Sharon Schamber's stabilizer, which I had never used until then.  I had decided though, that I did not want to hand applique these stars to the silk.  I'm not a machine appliquer either, but there is one time to try!  It all looks good in the above photo, but I will never do either again.  I hate that stabilizer - it is stiff, and alters the hand of the silks.  I am not good (IMHO) at machine applique.  In fact, I added hand appliqued black perle cotton around all of these to hide the stitching.  In hindsight, the black thread is a fantastic accent, but I don't like to always be in the cover-your-butt mode.

How the quilt would be finished was a 1-2 month quandary.  I had this orange silk dyed, only to discover I disliked the color with the quilt.  I was fortunate and found some discontinued orange (rust) silk that was an ideal color.  The lighter orange was saved for another project.  Great color...wrong quilt.

Fast forward to what felt like a forever number of months...and here is the finished quilt (with the right orange on the inner twist border).

I can't say exactly how many hours I spent quilting it, but it went onto the frame in February.  It came off for the final time in August.  It was off and on several times between those months.  There would be things I didn't know what to do, and I couldn't hold up quilting client quilts until it came to me.  If you want to learn more about quilting these blocks and busy prints, pick up the next Machine Quilting Unlimited edition -- My bimonthly column is all about quilting busy prints.  It is out early November.
How to quilt the zebra was one stumbling block.  I hate having a fabric that you just can not get the quilting to show on. What I did shows beautifully on the backside, but not so much on the front.  Life goes on.
As much as I really wanted to go easier, and put a very busy print on the back, I bellied up, and went with this tea-bag sateen.  It is gorgeous from the back, BUT it really makes you as a quilter have to get all starts and stops and tension as good as you can.  Judges have an easy road map to your mistakes otherwise.  If nothing else, I hope it tells the judges that I am not afraid to "put it all out there".  This is the best I can do, and I want them to see it.  If they find something, so be it. I didn't try to hide anything.
This is the center.  The silk is slightly lighter to use both the color and the quilting to draw the viewer's eye towards the center.
My decision to go with the silk background was a good one.  Nothing shows off the quilting better than silk Radiance.  Nothing.  The light catches the texture like no other material. To say I am addicted is an understatement.
Some of you may remember the June saga, which involved hand sewing on 126 of these tiny silk circles -- onto an already finished quilt!  It's much easier to do it on a flimsy, and I was most thankful for a couple of cooler weeks, since this 10lb quilt was in my lap.  I think they add a touch of whimsy.

Another thing I try hard to do when designing quilting is to bring the essence of the quilt into the quilting.  These ARE hexagons.  I wanted the quilting to pay homage to that fact, so I discretely placed hexies into the quilting.  They are a detail you may miss from across the room, but upon close inspection, they add to the cohesiveness of the piece. The devil is in the details, and quilts win and lose ribbons on details.
What's in a name?...

"The Twisted Sister" is a little wild.  She is a little different.  She is named for the creatively crazy use of zebra fabric, and the twisty ribbon that surrounds her.  She is also kin to her sister quilt, Bouquet Royale because of similar techniques, colors and fabrics.  They are made of the same genetics, but have minds of their own.
I lost count at about 800 hours.  I had to reblock the quilt because the flipping zebra fabric of all things bled black dye.  That didn't thrill me at all.  The hot water soak forced some fabrics to have a touch more pucker than I like, but pucker is WAY better than dye!

I know that the binding sucked up a TON of time too.
We all love backs, so here are a few looks.

(there are a few crystals back there on the off chance she hangs at a few shows where both the front and back are visible)
On to the binding... It is not your typical binding.  You guys should know by now that I never take the easy road.  I am always up for a challenge - finding something that perhaps has not been seen to maybe set this quilt apart from all the other hexagon quilts.

The first plan was this would be a scalloped edge with two pipings - green and black silk.  That part seemed easy enough, considering that I have done a dual-piping scallop edge on Illuminations.  The only difference is that was cotton batik.  Trust me, silk is a little more persnicketty.
 And, as planned, here went the silk binding.  What I didn't pan for though was how unflat and bad it would look.  No, not bad, horrible.  On to plan B...
What on earth is Plan B, I thought?...
Plan B turned out to be a black binding, but out of black batik, rather than silk.  The batik is tight, and tends to make very good bindings.  Furthermore, even the black silk is low sheen so I doubted that it would be immediately noticeable that it was cotton and not silk.  It may be noticed that some crazy nut used a black piping beside a black binding, and they will likely scratch their head on that thought.  I know it seems strangely overkill.  BUT there was no way I was picking off the piping because from the backside it was very hard to know which seam was for which piping.  It was just simpler to leave it and move on.  It layed nicely, but perhaps was not the most logical color choice.  Duly noted.
Now comes the fun part... Or perhaps that is just sheer foolishness, she said with a snicker.
I made a lot of those. And then I auditioned what to do with them.  The trash can definitely came into the list of possibilities!
 At first I was thinking about twisting them, but that was just beyond nuts.
 This is what I settled on.  It's a little simpler, but just the right finish.
These are added to a facing which is hand-stitched to the backside of the quilt after the entire binding was stitched down.  I considered just gluing the binding, but decided that if the loopy shit failed, I'd better have a fall back position that was actually finished.  This was definitely not fast, probably 25 hours to go around the quilt.  And then the other side of the facing still needed to be hand stitched down.  All in all, if the binding took under 125 hours, I'd be shocked. Must.go.simpler.next.time!
I'll show a couple more pictures, but if you want to see more, get yourself to Springfield, IL this week, or it's next showing at Road to California.  Fingers crossed she does well.
 Twisting motifs are abound...keeping true to the name.

If you made it to here...thanks!  I know there are a lot of pictures and a lot of words.  Part of me feels like I've been holding out showing this quilt and describing the fun I had creating it. Just hope that the judges had a good time looking at it too.
Monday ... (no, this is not yet posted, as I was waiting for judging to be done) - the nervous superstitions are huge right now!  I just saw this posted by a fellow MQX friend, who happens to be in the judging room.  Oh to be a fly on the wall in that room!  I might feel better about how the quilt did if they were smiling.
Tuesday...I was fast asleep last night when an email came in saying that this quilt has won an award.  I won't know what it is until tomorrow evening, but either way, it is better than a kick in the teeth.  This is a great day!  Hope you have one too~


LoriM said...

It's gorgeous, Margaret! And congratulations!!! 💗💗💗

Ann H said...

Thanks for sharing your process! The quilt is exceptional!

Vicki W said...

Awesome quilt and I can't wait to see what it won!

sdrussell said...

Congratulations on the award. I love how you explain your reasoning on doing certain things in your quilt. I am constantly learning from you. Thank you for posting your very informative blog.

Susan Lawson said...

Wowza!! your a genius Margaret! this is absolutely amazing and I loved! all the pictures. Hope she does well at the shows!

Maggie said...

Margaret, Margaret, Margaret!! Do you ever make a quilt that's not a masterpiece?! I'm like the village idiot with my mouth hanging open while I look at what you do. Thank you so very much for letting us see and follow your thought processes as you work. I stand in awe.

maggie in washington

Sue P. said...

Beautiful Margaret! Hope you'll send it to Quilt Odyssey next year so I can see it up close.

Unknown said...

This quilt (and ALL of your quilts) is amazingly beautiful! Thanks for taking us through the process. You know I am a fan! Congratulations on your ribbon, I'm sure it will be a very important one.

Lori Allison said...

Really enjoyed the snapshot into the creative process. Thank you for generously sharing. I hope this quilt takes you and your family on whatever adventure comes next! I recall Paris!

Eileen said...

Margaret, I don't think simple is in your genetic makeup!! Another awe inspiring quilt, which I hope to see somewhere on the show circuit. Rather than a machine quilting class, I'd love to take a process class-how to come up with finishing ideas. I know it's been done before, but not your way.

Congratulations on the award, have a safe and fun trip!

Deonn said...

Wow, fabulous, Margaret! Thanks for taking us on your creative journey in the creation of this masterpiece! I hope to see it in person some time soon. What a treasure.

Karen said...

Your quilts are always so inspiring. I hope to see one in person one day. Fingers crossed, it's beautiful.

Sherry Meyer said...

Spectacular!! Your quilt is beyond words. You go above and beyond on every quilt and this is no exception. Thank you for your detailed and honest post of your process and thoughts on this. It is very inspiring.The quilting is jaw dropping. Congratulations on your win.

Joy said...

Your binding is over the top. What a wonderful quilt.

Luann Fischer said...

I'm 2 days away from Springfield, but pondering the drive just to see it up close! It is gorgeous. I absolutely love the colors.

lvkwilt said...

I wish my brain worked half as well as yours--your creativity, attention to detail, and just plain talent are awe inspiring! I'm so glad you won and hope it's a first place--you deserve it! Your blog is always so inspiring! Congratulations!!

Lynne Stucke said...

How could she NOT win??? She is absolutely breathtaking!!!! Thank you for sharing her story. I usually think 'you' great quilters (as opposed to 'us' mere mortals) just breeze along and produce masterpieces without all the angst the rest of us suffer while trying to complete baby steps. Your thoughts, challenges, and even mistakes just show me I need to think things through and keep on plodding. Thank you! This was an inspirational post. (lynnstck[at]yahoo.com)

Janie said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your journey through this. Congratulations, your work is always exciting and awesome!

KaHolly said...

I was glued to your post through every word, enlarging every picture. I am in awe! I'll be back to find out what it won! Congratulations!~karen

Diane said...

Congratulations! I also like how you show us the quilt as it evolved. That green is stunning in the quilt and the surprise zebra print is fantastic. Love the picture of the judges looking at your quilt. I don't believe I've ever seen crystals on the back. Can't wait to hear what prize you won.

lindyloo said...

I have admired many, make that all, of your quilts over the past couple years since discovering your blog. I have to say this is my favorite...so far. I'm sure you will wow me a few more times in the coming years. Most of us would have reached our frustration limit and relegated it to the UFO pile long before completion. Or given up and found a "simple" solution to any one of the hurdles you came to. Thanks for sharing your process...hopefully each of us has found a gem in it to help us in our own problem solving. I admire your commitment to excellence and it inspires me to challenge myself. "If better is possible, good is not enough" comes to mind. Congrats on the first of many awards for this amazing quilt!

Unknown said...

Margaret, Love twisted sister. I remember you mentioning in an earlier post about the pearl cotton and I also had a stitching dilemma and thought the pearl cotton would work and, by golly, it did! In fact at the PIQF the judges critique commented on it. So thanks for that idea. Also perhaps a future post is how you made the loops between the swags, so narrow and turned inside out. Beautiful quilt.

Linda W said...

I was fortunate enough to go to Springfield to not only attend one of your classes but to also see The Twisted Sister in person. As beautiful as all the quilts were, yours was my absolute favorite. In fact, my friend and I stopped you in the quilt display area to "talk your ear off" about it! You are truly gifted as a designer, quilter and instructor. Linda W

Susie Q said...

I tracked down the winners and Twisted Sister got a First!!! in the Custom Heirloom Show. Very well done and I am very pleased for you...... now where does she go???