Sewing a stream

improv process

I’ve attended an on-line quilting workshop with Brenda Gael Smith, on the composition of abstract works inspired from images of our real life. It was already since the first paper-cutting exercise, that my mind started to travel along the theme of water courses. River-like mark-making appeared plenty of times on my resulting mini quilt. Thus, I gave it the title “Stream”.
I explored many rivers along the northern part of Italy, and I collected plenty of stories.

This is the story that I feel being connected with my quilt.

Last Sunday I spent all day touring by bike. I took the train, I reached the town of Cormons, and I routed to the town of San Pietro al Natisone, where a chestnuts fair was in planning.
I had lunch at midway, in Cividale.
After some tea and some rest, I was ready to push the pedal again.

In the afternoon I had to study my map.
The street I expected to use was blocked, due to a local motorbike race.
I tried to reach the limit point, hoping for the race to be finished, but they told me: “motorbikes will continue all day long”.

My route was crossing an area impossible to reach… I was tempted to show my anger to the policeman.
But I managed to keep quiet.
It had to be possible to find another way.

So, I started to explore the surroundings.
There was a tiny lane, just behind the house, that seemed to head for a backyard…
A small wooden signal appeared: “To Purgesimo, 1 mile”.
Great: this was my direction.
Dear cars, if the street is forbidden for you to pass, this doesn’t mean that for us, bike runners, there are no alternatives!

The most beautiful part of my tour started there.
A red pathway between the fields. The beauty of the river, along the side. A sunny sky with yummy clouds.
I spotted a layer of acorns under my wheels; some purple flowers of the specie “aster dumosus”; the dotted decoration on the body of a fleeting snake; two white horses running in the wood, and the sound of water stream audible only by me, cycling alone. Plenty of fruit types where shown at the chestnut fair. I headed back home, with four different chestnut packs, ready for a tasting exercise.

Tips to square a quilt

improv process, techniques

Sometimes people say that engineers have a squared mind (intended as: they are not really flexible, because their mind is closed inside a squared box…).

Well, since I’m an engineer, I like to think of methods for making nice squares. So, I tried different ways to square up my quilts, especially when they are big. I share my process here.

When my quilt is finished, I don’t use any marker to define its contour, nor I cut excess material. Both methods are irreversible. On the contrary, I define the edges with masking tape.

My references can be straight lines in the piecing or in the quilting: thanks to them, I line up the ruler (which is transparent, and can be aligned with such references), and the cutting mat just after the ruler (since the ruler length usually is not sufficient), to simulate the position of the edge. Looking at such guide, I will cover excess material with a line of masking tape.

The corner of the cutting mat indicates the 90 degrees angle, so I can proceed in this way for the next side, completing all the four sides.

After having masked all excess material, I can look at the simulated quilt contour, and I can adjust it, based on the following needs: do I want to exclude or to include some other peripheral elements of the picture? Are the opposite sides really parallel to each other?  To check parallelism, I measure the length of opposite sides. Usually corrections up to one inch are still needed in this phase… and I appreciate having the possibility to change my masking tape position.

When I’m satisfied of the contour placement, I start the facing procedure.
I love Audrey’s tutorial on cottonandbourbon web site: from the first time I’ve tried it, I’ve never left it anymore. Still, I apply it, but with a small difference: I don’t cut the excess fabric before starting the facing. I think it’s better to sew on a wide, flat area (all material of same thickness still existing on both sides of the walking foot), rather than sewing quite near to an edge (which creates a step). So, I first complete all the machine sewing operations on each couple of parallel sides (up to step 8, and later, up to step 10 of Audrey’s tutorial). Then, I cut and press.
Final hand sewing of such a clear quilt back becomes a piece of cake!

The purpose of a charity quilt

activism, collaborations

It’s now time to unveil the destination of the blue and white quilt, result of the beautiful patchwork marathon of previous months, with more than 50 sewing contributors. As promised since the beginning, purpose of the project is to aid the center for protection of women from violence, G.O.A.P. Trieste, which helps women in need since 30 years ago, offering them protection, support, a shelter home.

Thus, we invite you to make donations to G.O.A.P. through their PayPal account: goap.info@gmail.com. The first 90 donations, having value of 20 euro or more, delivered to G.O.A.P. since today with PayPal, will be associated to a number from 1 to 90, chronologically assigned as per order of donation arrival. As soon as all 90 numbers will be assigned, a list with donor name and associated number will be published at the following link of Patchworkvictim blog.

The blue and white quilt will be delivered to the person whose name is associated to the number that will become the first drawn by “Lotto Venice” lottery wheel on April 6th. It is possible to follow, on G.O.A.P. and Patchworkvictim social channels, the moment when the number of 90 donations will be reached, but we hope that this charity quilt project  becomes also an occasion to sensitize people on the importance of supporting structures that help women in need, beyond the possibility to win the quilt.

For clarity purposes, the name and surname of donor (or, as an alternative, the name and surname of another person to whom a donor wishes to dedicate and to assign a possible win) has to be specified in the moment of PayPal donation submission; numbers will be assigned only to donations submitted through PayPal channel. Patchworkvictim will take care of quilt delivery expenses in case the destination address is located within Italy.

Be generous! Reinforcing the activities that help women, done by groups such as G.O.A.P., it is of utmost importance in this complex period of history, and your generosity may be rewarded with a wonderful quilt!

The experience of a community quilt

activism, collaborations

Today, March 8th 2021, it’s the International Women’s Day. And I’m so happy to celebrate it in good company of a wide quilting community!

The social sewing initiative, launched by local quilt shop Patchworkvictim, aimed to create a charity quilt dedicated to the women in need, has just reached its milestone: a wonderful king size quilt has been completed, thanks to the hands of many volunteering participants, and it is full of beauty!

I’m honored to have handled almost two hundred pieces, combining them into a wide improv composition, together with Francesca. It was an occasion to learn more about several people. Francesca’s precious common sense, bringing me again to practicality when I was flying too strange; Tiziana professional ability, which transformed raw material into real thing overnight. And I felt the personality of each participant. The fantasy of so many different improv small creations expressed it well. And also tiny details revealed a lot of the hidden beauty of so much work.

Behind each white and blue square, looking at the back of each work (which I was lucky to access while assembling it all), I could see, like in a movie, the different choices of each participant. Sewing margin linear, or wavy? Pieced curves, with small cuts to let the margin be adapted? Open seams? Closed seams? Margin turned towards the dark fabric side? 

All these contributions found their place, in a double-face king size quilt: it was great to understand how every input, similar or odd from the others, could find a perfect fit in some point of the map! And it was a good gymnastic exercise, for Francesca and myself, to go tens of times up and down the stair, to position all the squares on a gigantic design wall! I admit, it took three appointments in different dates, to decide the final combination, but it was a wonderful dive into fabric waves of light and blue! When I finally took the photo of the completed work, a more than 100 inches tall blue wall, I felt like a queen in front of a tapestry of majestic preciousness.

The charity recipient, local center for protection of women from violence, G.O.A.P., will be involved in the next phase. This combination of secret and explicit beauty will soon find its way: stay tuned to hear more!

To conclude, thanks to the generous partners of the initiative, Aurifil and Cooperativa Torrenuvola.

Quilts getting air time

techniques

I’ve been asked about the hanging system I use for my quilts on the wall.

I use a thin rod, made in wood (for small quilts), or made in aluminium (for the bigger ones), which I cut with a hand saw at the desired length.

I sew three or more belt loops where the rod will be inserted.

In this way the rod remains accessible and can be easily positioned on nails or hooks.

I’ve equipped my home with a rail system, from which a series of wires can drop down. With this method, the position of the hooks on the wire can be adjusted every time I need a change.  

As soon as I complete a wall quilt, it goes on air in my home.
It’s always difficult to choose which one of the old quilts will be removed, to leave room for a newcomer! Some quilts get replaced after one week. Others become favourite ones, and they keep their position for more than one year…

This way, I continuously change the atmosphere in my house. And I even try combinations of quilts. Such as this group, that later became may part of my exhibit Tagliamento, king of rivers. I liked so much the capability of the light blue to complement the rich oranges, that these three quilts entered the gallery exactly in the relative position earlier tried in my living room.

The secret lives of fabric pieces

improv process

I tried again the composition technique named “dancing with the wall”, learnt during a course with Irene Roderick.

To me, this has clearly the effect pf prompting visions.

I started with some leftovers from previous works, and soon I saw a Liberty style décor.

I added some colours to the curves, and quickly I had the impression of seeing two persons looking to each other, ready to start to dance together. Or maybe it was only a single woman body, imprinted in blue onto the canvas, like during the performances of the painter Yves Klein?

I almost decided for the title “A tango with Klein”, when I rotated a bit the pieces… and suddenly a sea appeared, with people swimming among golden waves in the sunset.

Final version of my work resulted different again, but I wonder where the earlier visions have gone now: are they embedded in the quilt as multi-layer meanings, or they rather have taken an independent imaginary life of their own?

Use all the tiny bits!

improv process, techniques

I save all the smallest scraps from my quilting work. Half an inch is enough for me.

I’ve made sample textures with this starting material: column and row grids, log cabins… In my first video talk about improv I show some of them.

I recently took out this starting material. I noticed that the yellow and the purple patches had some colours in common. Good starting point to join them with a few transition lines!

It was a nice occasion to experiment with walking foot channel quilting, having needle positioned at variable distances.

When I had almost completed my work, I changed my mind: no more landscape rectangular orientation, but rather a square with a twist. It felt like adjusting the composition with a move of the photo camera… a cropping zoom. A good occasion to face fear of cutting an already made work… and to feel it can improve.

Good that mini quilts are completed in short time. I gave it the title “transition”: like the two starting blocks that blended, in a transition from purple to yellow with different piecing shape.

Connected crafts

techniques

I have been drawing for several years, during my life.

My first sketchbook daily practice dates back to Primary school. Maybe I still have it, somewhere.

I’ve practiced several creative techniques during last decades: drawing, photography, painting on fabric, stitching, paper marbling, creative microscopy (that one was very addictive!), improv quilting (which added a relevant discovery: of quilting community!).

I’ve recently started to draw again, fine-liner pen on cotton paper doodle-type.

During the last exercise, I was surprised of how easily some spiralled clouds emerged from my blue pen ink work. Then, I realized: it was thanks to the long hours of free-motion quilting practice done while using that same motif: quilting spirals, indeed.   

The different crafting techniques one tries are connected to each other in some ways.

My photos of flowers were usually made in macro mode, so close-up that they tended to be abstract, and I tiled them in columns and rows like in a mosaic.

My first three quilts were aimed to represent a landscape; then I dropped that idea, and I continued mainly with abstract improv piecing.

My drawing re-start intent was to play with doodles and geometries, but it quickly turned into figurative subjects derived from my year-long database of photographs.

There is still a lot of room to learn, from this re-mix of techniques!

Quilting marathon colored as a blue sky

activism, collaborations, improv process

I’m happy to announce the start of a social sewing initiative, launched by local quilt shop Patchworkvictim, dedicated to the women and aimed to create a king size charity quilt.

We’ve been talking in the background of this project for several months, and now it’s ready to start. Quite on purpose, the initiative connects two dates, as the start and the finish of a quilting marathon, that are: November 25th 2020, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and March 8th 2021, International Women’s Day. Since my experience of some years ago, when I worked in my city council as a member of gender diversity and equal opportunities committee, I care that not just a single day is used as a celebration for such important themes, but a continuous practice is adopted, together, collaboratively. The charity recipient of this initiative will be a very effective working group: the local centre for protection of women from violence, G.O.A.P., a team well equipped to act both on the cultural change and on the practical needs.

So, here we are! The initiative calls for quilters that contribute by sewing one (or more) squares having 10 inch size each, up to a total of 132 squares. All those pieces shall be made using the technique I love most: improv piecing! I’m so happy to contribute to this project with local discussions on improv, and in the final sewing phase of more than one hundred pieces into a unique quilt top!

Improv can be defined in several ways, but in this occasion its main feature will be: composition! Indeed, participants are invited to experiment with minimalist composition improvisationally done, within own 10” square block. Isn’t it a nice challenge? To try graphic effects with the smallest possible number of elements? Minimalist composition can be both difficult and very simple: how to find elegance with tiny piecing and a wide negative space? There is a lot of room of expression with abstract mark making!

The rules to keep a uniform approach within the overall quilt are simple: use solid background, and choose light blue and white colours. Our quilting marathon looks forward to an arrival into the fresh air of new year Spring, and our community quilt can talk the language of clear white clouds running in a light blue sky!

If you wish to participate, all that is needed is to book your participation writing to info@patchworkvictim.it ; on Patchworkvictim blog all the details of the initiative are presented, including address for block shipment, key dates and initiative contributors.
I’ve already started to make a few improv blocks… come and sew with me!

Grass and wheat

improv process

I’ve completed my second quilt realized with the technique named “Wall Dance”, which I learnt studying with Irene Roderick.

I’ve tried to mix the lessons learnt about composition (to be tested by free remix on the design wall), with my habit of growing textures in a continuum, without interruptions.  

I’ve started this work in Summer, before the “Tagliamento king of rivers” exhibit arrangement, and at that time I was thinking: “Why not to include this work in the gallery?”. Too optimistic: I completed this quilt two months after the end of exhibition.

In September I restarted my collaboration with the local quilt shop. During the lecture I gave with them, on finding beauty in abstraction while doing improv (and managing chaos!), I was sewing yellow and green pieces “live”: the fabric which took part of this discussion, later entered into the quilt.

I chose the title: “Grasshopper path”. I imagine being small and jumping across wheat fields, leaving trace of route taken, as indicated by the arrows.

Yesterday I placed the finished quilt on the wall of my living room. My child observed the result, and proposed the following way to compose a quilt: “Take your small pieces of fabric, let them fall on the ground, and sew them in the position they have taken on the floor!”