23 July 2013

A Cat Sized Quilt - Adventures in English Paper Piecing

Spring this year was a little rough for us at the House of Piper Ewan. My company's namesake, and furry partner in crime turned seventeen at the end of April. She had been feeling under the weather, so for her birthday, she got to go to the vet. Not the best birthday present, I know, but since we celebrate birthdays not only for the accomplishment of years, we also wish for many returns of the day in the future. Suffice it to say her diagnosis and treatment are working and she is almost her old grumpy self, but the May and June were difficult months indeed.

One thing for those of you living with pets knows for all practical purposes we share living quarters they insist upon taking up residence in places you might prefer that they didn't, like your pillow. I had made a small cat-sized quilt for her to perch and sleep upon so I didn't have to sleep on discarded fur. When one small cat is ill, well, you learn that you need at least TWO cat sized quilts. What one who has pets also may notice is that things made for pets to sit upon are UGLY and don't necessarily blend in with one's decor.

At the end of May, I got to meet Haley of The Zen of Making and we had a making day where my friend Diane Gilleland of Craftypod was going to teach several of us English Paper Piecing. I had planned on making a cat sized quilt with 1" hexagons for Piper; which seemed a little daunting, but I was up for the task. Except that Diane accidentally forgot the bigger hexagon templates at home! Her mom saved the day with tiny 1/2" hexagons, which led to a good candidate for this year's insanity project, but once I start something, I feel determined to finish it! If you live here in Portland, Diane teaches awesome classes and Haley has written tutorials on the subject which are posted at the end of this piece. The rest of this post is mostly in pictures. It took a month and a half, because the whole quilt is pieced and quilted by hand.

The first several blocks.
Piper supervised through all steps of the process. Normally, I don't let her sit on my work, but she knew that this was hers.
Sewing the blocks together.
The back with the papers still in them.
After the papers were taken out.
Pinned and ready for quilting.
Always supervising.
Back quilting detail.
She insisted upon laying on it as I sewed the last stitches.
Definitely a satisfied customer. This photo was taken a couple of weeks after I finished. She sleeps on it every night.

Haley has posted a tutorial for English Paper Piecing here. Want to see more photos of my process? There is an entire album here.

01 July 2013

Calendar Project: Drawing A Bird A Day 6 Months In

Starting from the beginning of this year, I gave myself a challenge to improve my drawing skills by drawing something on every single date page of my calendar. To keep myself in check, I posted each drawing to Instagram. The reasoning behind this is that I want to do elaborate embroideries on corsets, and in order to be able to stitch the images I want to, I have to be able to draw. Now I could do this through trial and error on corsets, but it would be slow and expensive. My aim here is to develop a skill and a style in as short amount of time as possible.

I have come quite a ways from my first pages. I love to show people these first pages when people tell me that I am a natural talent for this. No, actually, it is all about practice and persistence. Everything I've ever made is the result of all the pieces I've made before; through trial and error and just doing. Over and over and over. The first month was a real struggle. There were many days where I had to draw on three pages to catch up. It wasn't very fun, and the drawings were way more loose and scribbly than I would have liked them to be. But I kept drawing, because each drawing led to the next where I could look at my mistakes from the previous day and fix them.

I also felt that it was important to show people the pages of my calendar as it fills up. You can see each page mostly in order compiled here on Flickr.

From a little ways in when I started to be able to people have been asking if these would ever be for sale, and the answer at first was no, because the birds are contained on the lined pages of my calendar along with my appointments, lists, client phone numbers, passcodes, quotes and bits about the weather.

Somewhere in May I started doing extra drawings. These drawings are now for sale. They are labeled as "Bonus Birds" on Instagram, and I put all I've done so far together in an album here. They are all black ink on white paper (the photos are low quality on purpose). If you are interested in any in particular they are $50. each: first come, first served. Send me an email with a link to the drawing you are interested in. I will be making more Bonus Birds so keep an eye out for them at least for the rest of the year. Please note that I update my Instagram in real time, and Flickr gets updated in chunks when I remember to do it.

So I made it half-way through the year; I've used up four entire pens. I will continue through the end of the year, and who knows what's next or where this will lead? I may or may not do much else with these birds; I have no intention of a career change at the moment. But as long as I feel like doing the drawings, I will.  I am kind of used to having a drawing on every passed page of my calendar; it pleases me.