Sunday, October 15, 2017

Art Quilt Constructed in Units

How do you do that? is a question I'm often asked about my quilts.  When I look at the entire finished thing, I think, "yeah, how DID I do that?"  The truth is, I DON'T do that.  I mean, I don't make the whole thing at once.  That would make me crazy.  I just make a lot of little pieces that I call units, and if I like them, I keep them, start hooking them together, and after awhile, I end up with a whole big quilt top. I might make a single unit 5 or 6 times before I think, yeah, that's it.  (Or, to hell with this!)

The photo below is of the Deer Harbor Post Office.  I think the building is charming, and it is the core of the community that has been my home for more than 20 years, so I wanted to quilt it.  It's kind of a complicated scene, further complicated by a Christmas Tree next to the door, and the winter-dead bushes around it.  But it had all the elements I like--the windows, the madrona tree, the dentalia trim on the porch and the corbels under the eves.  So I decided this is my new project.  I am going to try to change the point of view somewhat so that eye-level will be about where the "1893" sign is, instead of right into that obnoxious bed of English ivy.  That will also allow me to eliminate the wall.  I'm also eliminating most of the the madrona trees (even though I love them).  I'm going to keep the one on the far right of the building and make it bigger to help frame the building. At least that's the plan.  As I work through these things, plans change, often due to my limited ability to put my plan into fruition, or because I get a new, though not necessarily better, idea.

The most important units to me were the signs on the side of the post office.  If I couldn't make those, then the whole piece would suffer.  I figured out the signs and moved to the windows next, because again, those are the highest priority--they make this building what it is.  If I couldn't make good windows, then the piece wouldn't please me and I'd like abandon it.  
Next I made the one tree I am keeping in the image, then the eves and sky above it.  As each unit is made, if it really goes with the rest of the piece, I start attaching them to each other with my fall back product:  Elmer's Washable School Glue.  I put a thin bead along the edges of the pieces and heat set the glue with a hot iron.  The glue holds the pieces together very well, but can still be pulled apart without damage to the edges of the pieces if I need to change something.

I usually let things sit around in the glued state a few days to make sure I REALLY like them before using invisible monopoly thread and a narrow blind hem stitch to connect things in a more permanent way.

In the images on the left, three units are connected--the signs on the wall, the bench, and the first window.  At this point, I pretty much decide if the piece is going to work, and if I like it.  If I do, then I plunge ahead.  In the photo on the right, the eves and sky above have been added along with the tree.  The second window was made, but not connected yet.
Here's the drain pipe under construction, which will finish that whole right side of the building.    Since there's only going to be ONE tree, I went all in on it--it took about a jillion pins to put it together.  Next I think I'll move to the eves and porch roof on the left side of the image.  Chunk by chunk, each element gets added to the whole. 

One of the many ways I can screw up is not deciding what goes in front or in back of which other piece.  For example, above I've left an opening for the second window.  The gap has about an extra inch of fabric all around so the second window will be layered on top of it.  If I misjudge how much fabric is needed for the overlap, I can end up with a hole.  Then I have to decide if I can patch it, or if I need to remake that piece.  I make those decisions after a bit of cussing of course.

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