Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
We were discussing how it is possible to create a diagnostic Profile of any worthwhile crazyquilt block or full quilt [top]. The rationale is that, by understanding as many 19th- and early 20th-century CQs as we can, we'll be better able to continue to create above-average crazywork items in our own time. At least, this is one of my very personal theories. And most of what I believe so strongly is based on an often-encountered phenomenon: the preponderance of "sew-and-flip" crazyquilt piecing that we have all seen since the resurgence of this wonderful textile-arts medium in the mid-1980s. Sadly, there are too many people who believe that this is the only way to put together the patchwork for all of our crazy blocks and quilts. But it isn't.
I say this, and at the same time I have to express my profound gratitude that Judith Baker Montano has taught the world this method of making crazyquilted things. I showed this important technique to absolute beginners in the very early 1990s, and I've seen beautiful quilts and other items made in this 20th-century way. But I also have to be honest with you. The two items that I attempted in this piecing format (1991) drove me a little crazy, figuratively speaking, even tho' Marianne Fons taught the guild-sponsored class I attended exactly how to deal with the increasingly-larger and larger patches that one has to add as one pieces the last "rounds" of patchwork. I just couldn't adapt, and I couldn't get around the fact that "sew-and-flipping" doesn't look anything like the authentic [there's that word again...] original crazy patchwork. I had fallen in love with the latter format those few years before, and I guess I got stuck in my preferences, but with wonderful results, thanks be to Heaven.
Well, how's that for getting right to the point? So, I have this "Reading-the-Block" Chart for you and me -- a questionnaire, really -- that is designed to point out the most necessary things to know about a block/quilt in order to profile it adequately. The profile is the device that aids our understanding. So it needs to be insightful as well as thorough. A last thought: our answers to the questions will depend on our level of experience, the amount of time we have already invested in these pursuits -- and on our trained ability to see what we are looking at. Here's the Chart:
- Overall/generic TYPE of crazyquilt or CQ top -- choose one of three: a fancy CQ or a decorative utility CQ or a utility CQ
- Generic CQ-Patchwork Block Formats -- choose all that may apply, especially if profiling a whole quilt/top. A block alone may be defined as belonging to one or as many as four primary construction categories. Note: I have found 32 of these thusfar. (See American Quilter Magazine/Fall 2000, p. 18.) In order to see which category a block or quilt fits into, look at the entire item, and note what the quiltmaker had in mind. Does the patchwork resemble a Log Cabin block with irregular pieces? Is there a Fan in the block or quilt, and how much space does it fill? (My "Method-Three" Workbook identifies them all for you.)
- "Essential Elements" of CQ-Patchwork Design & Construction -- list all that may apply here. Note: there are at least 22 different applications in the cloth that can be combined to create a sizable piece of crazy patchwork. I've mentioned nine of these so far and will soon tell you a little about the remaining thirteen piecing strategies. In the meantime, how many of these can you discover or think of? Hm-mmm?
- Most Interesting / Eye-catching / Important "Patchy Aspect" about this item -- list only one. I assume that I chose to document this item in the first place because something about it was special enough to intrigue me, even if I cannot find anything about it that is altogether unique. This is the only truly subjective finding for every CQ item.
- Fabrics used -- list as many as can be identified and your best guesses for some of the "mystery patches." Also answer these questions: (a) are most or all of the fabrics solid-colored? (b) Are all, most, several, or just a few of them prints? (c) Does one type of cloth dominate the CQ item (as, for instance, velvet/een, cotton, woolens, denim, polyester double-knits, or other fibers)? If not, specify "an assortment of fabrics" as making up the patchwork.
6. The Palette -- list every "Primary Color Group" that you see. Ask: is it a successful mix of colors to your critical eye? Is there a dominant color, or are there two or three obvious colors upon which the whole Palette is based? If the Palette is not monochromatic: is one color overused? Underused? Is/are there one or more color(s) that you would not have included in the mix? Is/are there one or more that you would have included? In both cases, why? Remember when I told you several posts ago that some of the information I'd be telling you would be startling? Well, you were warned: There are actually 15 "Primary Color Groups," not three! (Or 16, if you insist on including Yellow-green among them.) It's necessary to think very differently when making textile items than we would if drawing or painting in color, so, please try to recognize and allow for the validity of my "Primaries" for the purpose of profiling your CQ things. Believe me, doing so will make a huge difference in the development of your own color expertise in a short time. My master list of "Primary Color Groups":
Red-violet, Red, Pink, Red-orange/"Rust," Orange, Yellow, Brown,
Green, Blue-green, Blue, Blue-violet, Violet, Black, Gray, and White.
Your master list might differ. Just don't make the mistake of forgetting to notice Black, White, and Gray, or Brown and Pink, as true Hues -- not merely as mixtures of other Hues, or "tints," or "shades" of something else. Only when you are ready to acknowledge the equal importance of every single Hue listed here will you be able to evaluate a textile item properly. That's my opinion, and it came about when I understood the difference between working in cloth as compared to working in mixable media -- paints and even some coloring pens & pencils, where the artist has most of the control over the coloring process and can even create new hues on the spot. (In this discussion, I won't go into the processes of dyeing our own cloth. That's obviously an option, but it doesn't have anything to do with my personal studies.)
7. Contemporary or unique Embellishments -- those not listed in No. 3.
8. Other Non-traditional Applications. Does the item possess an odd shape? Is its size unusual -- either very small or very large? How is it backed? bordered? bound?
9. Workmanship. How would you grade the piece if you were a quilt-show judge?
10. Condition Overall. Specify any level from "MINT" to "POOR." Specify all damage noted to any portion of the item, just as if you were a professional appraiser of quilted items. (At least, do your best.) Note whatever is right or wrong with the piece as you found it.
Last of all these points, if you wish, you might give the profiled/documented item a "star rating," based on whichever system you like best. This can be a lot of fun, especially if several friends have critiqued the same CQ item and get together to compare notes (literally speaking) over peach-tea-flavored Crystal Lite & Sun Chips or movie-theater popcorn. In my opinion, once again, there are very few "ten-star" crazyquilts from the dates that I'm most interested in, but I do have two favorites. One is the magnificent Tamar North Mourning Quilt in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the second is the famous, totally one-of-a-kind Barnyard Quilt dated 1920 and made by Mittie Agnew Barrier, I believe. The first of these may be found on the Museum's website; the other was first documented in Ms. McMorris's invaluable 1984 book, Crazy Quilts. These are two of my "ten-star" quilts, for they are absolutely perfect in every aspect to my artistic eye. If I can get permission to show them in a future bloggy post, I will do it in a heartbeat.
This is your post for the day, dear hearts! Off I go at 0203 hours, central-daylight time, star date unavailable. Gonna go look for more exciting photos to add to this later on, but, to be very honest with you, thinking this hard has done wore me OUT! Yes. Be well, and let me know if any of these ideas might make a difference to you some day. 'Til next time. . . . .
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Before I post my "Reading Chart," there's one more thing to remember: to really understand whatever the CQ item has to teach us about authentic crazy patchwork, we have to look beneath the stitchery, the colors, and the fabrics. It's an acquired skill, and we get better and better at it as we do the exercises that are being suggested here. Perhaps I should also mention that I only invest the time it takes to "interview" any CQ item in depth IF that item is visually stunning to my eye; thus, anyone else wishing to study in this way will decide which items are worthy of her efforts to "get acquainted."
More to come, and I hope you find it at least interesting, 'cause I will reveal the rest of the "How To Read" information next time! Comments in agreement or disagreement will be equally welcome along with any ideas which occur to you. OH: these photos (and the one from the last post) are all from the same 1880-to-1910 antique quilt. An eBay offering, I haven't been able to find its owner, and I hope I haven't violated a copyright by showing them to you. Each block has several important things to teach us, if we can only see them. . . . .
Blessings on the morrow, and affectionate back rubs to all. . . . .
Thursday, August 7, 2008
regarding "CRAZYQUILT PATCHWORK / Method Three" (and why you might find it an interesting read). . .
Springtime in August gives me such a great sense of Hopefulness, ya know. More thanks-givings are coming your way as I recall the kind words about the recent Tutorials. I truly hope you won't think that this is just too much analytical overkill, 'cause these findings have helped me immeasurably. Mostly, my acquaintance with the "Twenty-two Essential Elements" has taught me to recognize and appreciate a really excellent (that is to say, well-planned and well-executed) antique crazyquilt whenever I have the pleasure of meeting one. You know as well as I do: not every crazyquilt is created equal, as not every one of them is pleasing to the eye of the beholder. Well, I suppose there's something to be said for having too much information about almost any subject we can imagine. A lot of information is being offered to my Sisters of the Fancy Cloth, to be sure, but I'd so much rather think of it as insight instead of just an abundance of simple and complicated facts. If the subject intrigues you even a little bit, please come along for a sometimes exciting, sometimes startling journey into the Wonderful World of Crazy-Patchwork Design and Construction -- which, as you must know, is the primary "umbrella topic" for everything we've been discussing since last Friday. OK!
The Introduction to the Workbook gives the historic data that explains where the fundamental, altogether essential idea for "...Method Three" originally came from. My favorite disclaimer is about to be uttered again, so be warned: "Not everyone needs to know this, but. . ." if you are like me, crazy piecing -- no, successful, decent-looking crazy piecing -- is very difficult. I'm not sure that even Martha Green's extraordinary piecing method would be easy enough for me at this stage, and many people swear by it! So what's a crazyquilt-loving, extremely OC/perfectionistic/left-brained eldermom to do when her focus takes off for an extended vacation and doesn't tell her where it's going? The answer came in one of those "duh!" moments we can all relate to: in five words, I thought, why not use freezer paper?
Oh, I know; nothin's that easy -- or is it? Well, almost! Actually, "Method Three" is my sort of updated manner of constructing crazy patchwork by using pattern pieces, not unlike Ms. Michler's technique as described on page 26 of her very important book, The Magic of Crazy Quilting / Second Edition. The difference is, instead of making my Pattern on typing or drawing or graphed paper or even on a high-quality tissue paper, I use Reynolds brand white, poly-coated, temporarily-fusible freezer paper. I pre-design all of my CQ blocks nowadays, being sure to include a mix of the "Essential Elements" among the patches, and so on until I have individual pattern pieces that will be pressed onto the wrong sides of my various block-making fabrics. There's quite a bit more to know, however, and that's why I wrote the current Workbook. Thirty days more should be enough time to finish the remaining illustrations and "fiddling" with page numbers and captions and photographs for the front cover. Of course, I don't expect this little overdue publication to create a major stir in CrazyLand, especially when "Method Three" is so untraditional AND is almost too "sane" for most serious CQers. But for some of us. . .
Some of us really do need more help than even a quilt-shop or guild-sponsored class can give us. Some of us need to see what we are doing before we cut into our cloth. Nothing on earth can take me back to the time when it was natural and fun to "wing it" at the work table. The part of the process that energizes every new project now is the knowing part, the certainty that the final product will make sense to my eyes as long as the design is reasonably good AND the colors I choose are in harmony. "Method Three" requires three or four extra steps before you prepare your foundation cloth, gather all of your pressed fabrics and arrange them near you, grab your favorite cutting tool(s), and start making the preliminary patches. Those extra measures save me hours of fretting and not-very-silent conversations with myself, as I wonder aloud, "Why am I doing this?, and why doesn't someone make me STOP?!" [whine, whine, whine...]
Monday, August 4, 2008
Hi, again! Guess what. I never thought that posting the previous article would cause me to work so hard, revising and fretting over the Workbook that the ideas are taken from. True to form, I've been trying to finish this 60-page tutorial since 2002, when I got really serious about gettin' 'r done, and when it only had about 32 pages of text & pixures. Well, phooey on that plan! Anyway, let's hope the three scans will appear somewhere in this post, 'cause (speaking ve-e-ery quietly so Blogger won't hear) I really need FOR BLOGGER TO HUMOR ME TODAY! Nice to get that out of my system. . .
Three: Another excellent design element consists of an intersection that joins the seams among four different patches. Altho' this join doesn't always look exactly like the English alphabet letter which gives it its name, an "X" intersection provides us with another option for our patchwork. The easiest way to create this join is to do it in three steps: first, sewing together two of the four patches with seam allowances pressed open; second, sewing the remaining two patches together, ditto on the seam allowances; third, sewing both of these two-piece sections right sides together so that their joining seams match at the place required, and pressing open that long seam. Please remember: because of the inherent irregularity of crazy patchwork, you may NOT see the "X" clearly, if at all. The thing that defines this construct is the fact that four patches intersect at one point. Please see my illustration. +++ Now, just one more join for your consideration:
Four: Illus. 6 on one of the drawings, below, shows one of my favorite decorative constructs -- a "star" intersection. I hope you notice that there are five patches whose seams come together at one point on the block, altho' there might even be six. A "star" can be created in the easy manner described in the text that accompanies the illustration, or you can simply sew five patches together in a clockwise or counter-clockwise [anti-clockwise] direction until all five seams are done. Since everything has to lie flat eventually (if you're working in the traditional mode), a "star" might best be pre-designed on paper, with templates cut out and used, etc.* By the way, this "Essential Element" is also known as Design Option No. 18.
We've gotten thru the standard seam intersections, so we can elaborate just a little more on. . . .
Six: . . . if you will please find Patch No. 6 in the Heart's upper right "chamber," you'll notice a nifty variation on the patch with one folded corner -- a thing I can only refer to as a double folded-corner patch. Betcha I doesn't has to tell anyone how to create one o' these, huh? What? It is true: you can't make your blocks in sew-'n'-flip mode and make a block such as the one I designed for this exercise, BUT, any block of crazywork can be improved and made more traditional in appearance by the addition of either form of folded-corner patch. I recommend that you give it a try!
Don'tcha just love it when even very important facts have numerical limits?, freeing you to NOT have to memorize how many -- oh, dear. I digress again. Here's the next Very Important Fact of Crazyquilt-Block Design & Construction: there are only THREE different kinds of CURVES employed in crazywork! How cool is THAT!
Nine: the "S" curve is, obviously, a combination of the two curves just mentioned. Some patch edges might actually have two of each type of simple curve! Also obviously, any of these three curves on one patch qualifies that particular patch edge for applique -- by hand or by machine, as you wish. +++
* The 60-page Workbook I've been working on for so long is titled CRAZYQUILT PATCHWORK / Method Three. "Method Three ROCKS!!" It's all about crazy blocks & garments & tea cozies & whatever else you might have in mind one day -- only, I need approx. thirty days more to finish the wretched illustrations. Will give ya more specs. in the next post; also a few "inspirationals" from within its oft-revised pages. Meanwhile, enjoy the possibilities just presented, and know that I forever appreciate the kindness and enthusiasm shown in your messages to me since three Mondays ago. Gonna go get pixures now! Hope you'll spend another fifteen minits or so with me in a few days. . . . .
Friday, July 25, 2008
One: There are only two generic ways to piece THREE patches together, plus three special variations which require some form of applique. The first process is the most common of ALL the joining methods. "Two of your patches are sewn together along the two edges that are meant to be joined, creating the first seam. One of the long [common] edges of this two-piece construction is straightened by scissors, and a third patch with at least one edge that's long enough and straight enough to be used for this purpose, is sewn -- right sides together -- across the straightened edge of the two-patch assembly to create the second seam." That's a very long-winded way to describe most of what happens in order to join three patches together when piecing a crazyquilt item. (If we were strip-piecing, there'd be a different operation to talk about.) This resulting join is referred to as a "T" seam or "T" intersection. The Heart-shaped block, above, is entirely made of these joins with one exception. Note, however, that I didn't say anything about the angles in which the two seams will intersect, nor did I tell you about the Advanced Version of creating a "T" seam. . .
Two: Not all of the intersections among three patches form a recognizable "T" of some variation. Our second option is more involved, but the finished results are more interesting. "Two pieces of cloth are sewn together with a straight seam; press the seam allowance open. Instead of cutting the common edge of the first two patches to create a completely straight edge that is perpendicular to the seam just sewn, each patch will be designed in such a way that, in order to fit the third patch in place, the third patch will have to be pre-constructed. Illus. 4 shows the two adjacent raw edges of the third patch (c.) turned to the wrong side and pressed. I gave a name to this type of piece and call it a folded-corner patch. That prepared corner will be played with until it fits into the angle made by the first and second patches in the assembly, and then it [the third patch] will be appliqued in its place to cover the two appropriate raw edges of Patches a and b (which you may have to straighten a bit individually). The resulting join is referred to -- even in "sane" quilting circles -- as a "Y" seam or "Y" intersection." I have seen such a three-patch assembly on an antique crazyquilt in which the first seam, between pieces a and b, was a curve, but I've never seen a curved edge on the third patch on either side of the folded corner. It wouldn't be impossible to accomplish, but it would be pretty difficult to do this well.