Tuesday, March 05, 2019

The Value of Violet...In the Making (post 1)

All my life I have had this love affair with the color purple. I love this color and all of its shades -- lavender, plum, fuchsia - they all just speak to my passion for this quilt. I'm not sure that this originally intended to be a one-color quilt in the beginning, but it rapidly turned into that. What I learned in this process is that these type designs are immensely challenging. I have always used a variety of color to convey movement, or depth. A chosen "pop" color helps to move the eye around the quilt. I still wanted to create a quilt with these same characteristics, but was forced to use the values of the single color to do this.

My quilt, The Value of Violet, debuted at the MidAtlantic Quilt Festival last week. This is my new quilt for 2019. Over about 11-12 months, I worked on the quilt so it is fun to finally get to share the entire thing. It finishes at about 71" square, and is made from both commercial cottons and silk Radiance. As you may know, silk Radiance has been out of production about 20 months now, but fortunately for me, as soon as I heard production was stopping, I purchased about 50+ yards in a variety of colors.
This post will discuss the making of the top.

In December 2017, I decided I wanted to make a modernized version of the Pumpkin Seed pattern. I had 3 shades of the hand-dyed purple silk Radiance which was barely enough to cut out these petals. Debra Linker (a fantastic dyer) dyed these for me for another quilt the year before, but somehow my interest in finishing this quilt waned, and I was left with some of the fabric. I am probably considered a hoarder when it comes to fabric, not throwing away even the smallest scraps. That came in handy this time! The background is the simple pieced checkerboard of silver Radiance (a stock color) and this Kaffe print that was actually bought for something else. The two silver fabrics just happened to match nicely.
The applique bits are all turned edge using the startch and templar method. It does take what feels like a proverbial lifetime to get them turned but once they are prepared, I can take the pieces anywhere and stitch them. Weeks later, the edges are still crisp. At the time of this photo, I was still auditioning layouts and playing with the pink dots. It didn't end up quite like what is above.

I have put the lightest lavender fabrics at the center, and the darkest at the outer edge. This creates a pretty glow from the center of the quilt. Because I chose to applique over the seams, when all petals are stitched down, I went back and snipped away the seams from beneath the petals. There is nothing more unsightly than to have nice quilting over the lumps of the piecing.
Originally, the center medallion (above) was going to be set on point, and there were going to be rather sizable appliqued corners (shown below). I remember thinking how daunting all that applique was going to be to prepare, and it was subsequently modified. I'm not really sure though that the design I switched too had any less applique!

 The applique is whimsical, and less realistic than my last quilt. It's hard when all of it is from the same color. Leaves and flowers were all purple. Floral applique is much simpler when there are many shades of green for leaves, and other bright colors for the flowers. a single color scheme poses many more challenges than I initially considered.

When I ditched the large applique corners, I had to go with pieced corners. The diamond piecing is a bit of a pain, but it is great when you only have a few inches of any one fabric. I tried to work in a couple of the lavender silks, for that variety in sheen, as well as a pretty gradation of darker to lighter purples. By themselves, the colors of the corner seem a bit odd, but on the quilt, I think it twinkles.

(doing a layout test)

The biggest problem with these corners is that the outer edges are ALL bias. I had to come up with a way to put this all together so that it wasn't a stretchy mess. Here's what I did.
 I cut a piece of muslin in the exact size needed the finished square to be. The corners were carefully basted to the muslin, forcing the outer edges to be square.
I wanted to use this 1/2" fuchsia border, but knew it would only work if it remained very straight. This construction method seemed unorthadox, but I knew it would accomplish my goal. The tiny border was pieced into place, attaching it directly to the muslin-basted square.
Next the center medallion is carefully centered on this muslin, and basted to heck and back. How do you center it?...Guess you won't accept "carefully" as the answer. I place it squarely on my wood floor, using the boards to keep it straight. Using a laser and measuring tape, I tweak the medallion until the alignment is straight. There is no easy fix later if this is not right. You can't exactly ask the viewers and judges to "kindly cock your head sideways 3 degrees when viewing". LOL!
I added the deep purple scallops. They are left raw edge because I covered the edge with the magenta bias (below). I also tucked a piping under the outer edge, but I can't seem to find a photo of this before the quilting was done. 4058 photos of this quilt, but not one of this. Go figure...what were the odds!
This shows the piping... (pretend you haven't seen the quilting!)
I machine appliqued the bias edge to the scallops using a clear thread, then carefully stitched the entire medallion to the background via the ditch by the piping. The last step is to remove the muslin that was used to keep everything perfectly straight and square.

This shows the muslin removed from the center (above). Below, I cut it away from the pieced corners. There is a tiny ridge ~1/4" wide where the seams are that you can't get rid of completely, but that is ok. What I don't want is to have the muslin shrink should I need to do a hot soak (if a fabric were to bleed), because the muslin would shrink more than the other fabrics.
 Here's my fancy-shaped cutaway of muslin...
On to the applique borders...

In all truthfulness, the design of these was ongoing as the work just described was being done. I drafted the  pattern on paper. Like the last applique quilt I finished (My Secret Garden), all four sides of the applique are different, and there is an intended top and bottom.
I create "patterns" of the key shapes (main leaves, flowers, etc) and they are traced onto the serpentine vine. At some point in the design, I decided I wanted a ribbon to intertwine behind the applique, so it was added. The only color that made sense for the ribbon was white.
 These ribbon sections were made from white batik, and had an edge of the white silk Radiance. I just didn't have enough white to make them all from the silk. The bothersome part though was that the gray fabric shadowed through the white batik.
 So I added a rather heavy fusible interfacing, fused across the entire back (below).
I used an Elmer's glue to position the silk and batik pieces, so after it was stitched, these went into the sink for a quick bath.
And air dry, then re-iron... because they were a tad puckery. I hoped once quilted they'd be flat. Why do all quilts seem to be somewhat experimental??!
Each of the 4 applique borders was hand stitched individually, before they were added to the center. When they were complete, I soaked them to remove glue and starch, and blocked them on the foam core boards back to size. The handling of being stitched as well as the bias vine can make these (when appliqued on silk) want to distort a bit. Blocking recreates a perfectly flat quilt which is ideal to have before quilting. The only thing not done on these borders is the applique that is on the corners.
The "greenery" I designed for this quilt is different from other floral applique I have used. Leaves still look like leaves, but I added that deep plum pod-like shape and the modern-ish "flowers". I knew it would all read as "floral", but I was going for different. These three flowers (shown at bottom of borders above) were intended to mimic the shapes of the pumpkin seeds of the center. Clever?...well, no...it was sort of planned. I do that with the quilting too, but you'll have to wait until the next post for that.
(slight bleed)

This was the first time I have used faux suede. I never knew how fantastic this stuff is -- no edges to turn, no circles to manually cut. The 1/4" berries (nearly 300) were cut with circular punches than hand appliqued.  One firm whack of the hammer and you have a microscopic circle! It was good for kid-raising stress-relief too. The vines are appliqued with 2 color of floss - magenta and purple. Truth be told, one of these embroidery threads likely bled. I used a floss that I have probably had since the early 1990s, and I suspect it was that. I thought it was the right color, so I used it. Bad deal!...Toss all your old flosses!! If it weren't for the white ribbons, the bleeds might not have been seen, but it's in a few places, subtly.
Viola! Here is most of the top. The corners are pinned into their square positions (yes, with the aid of the magical aligning hall flooring and a rotary cutting square. The remainder of the applique that covers the corner miters is hand stitched.
But of course, I was thinking two steps ahead of where I actually was. Before the applique was actually done, I was playing with how to do the outer border. I knew that the quilt needed more beyond the silver silk to properly ground it. I wanted to bring that very deep purple of the scallops to the outside of the quilt. It's about moving the eye, and color was my only tool to do that.
The one inch squares are simple, but colorwise effective. No rocket-science or extraordinary measures needed. Just a dark plum border. There were a few of the magenta squares thrown into that outer border to pay homage to that shade as well.
Now, I needed to decide on what fabrics to use on the 3/4" circles I was going to applique to the points of the pumpkin seeds. I had a small piece of this Celtic print that I have been hoarding forever. I love this, and thought since I used it on the corners of the white ribbons, it would be perfect to reuse on the dots.

 They were more than a bit pesky to align just so. Many naughty words were said for each I had to remove and straighten!
 Three or four other shades were also used on the dots, from darker at the outer to lightest near the center.

This is essentially the finished top, as it was when I loaded it on the longarm. I added trapunto, quilting, embroidery, couching, some pearls and more (yea, the crazy quilted scallop binding) as the process continued!
Stay tuned...the next post in a few days will discuss the quilting!


Острига said...

Your works are always fine, and descriptions are informative. My God, how many it is made works!Such care and selection of color causes respect.It is one more masterpiece. I congratulate!

Colleen said...

Absolutely informative.

Gaga said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your process. I doubt I'll ever get to your level, but it's fun to see how you do it. Congratulations!

Sana said...

I am, as always, completely and totally fascinated by your design process, especially the "I had planned to this thing, but it didn't work, so I did different thing, which did work." That just astounds me. Thanks for sharing!

Sue said...

Gorgeous! Your attention to detail and problem-solving is always impressive.

Farm Quilter said...

Oh, gorgeous!!! I love purples as well and I can't wait to see how you did all the quilting!!! I don't do hand work so I always have to figure out how to do everything on my sewing machine or longarm!

sdrussell said...

It looks really simple, once you read your process. Of course I know that it is not. I love the tip about the muslin, one I will use in the future. Using the faux suede is brilliant for the berries, again one tip I will use in the future. I love all of the learning I do when reading your processes of the quilt making. Thank you for the lessons and ideas.

momto1 said...

Amazing, as always. I love the purples/gray-silver color scheme, and your artistry is so perfectly balanced. Thank you for sharing your methods.

Susan A said...

Omg... I think this is the best quilt ever... the use of all the purple fabrics just sings... congratulations
Thanks for all your thoughtful tips and process.. just wonderful