Saturday, January 24, 2015

Finished Making 61 Quilt Blocks!

For 23 days straight I've been making, quilting, and embellishing blocks for my 2014 Travel Diary quilt. Today I finally finished all 61 of them!!! Here's the stack:

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, 61 finished blocks
The next, and quite challenging, job is to figure out how to put them together to make a wall quilt. I'll write another post about that process later. For now, it will be fun just to show you a few more of the individual blocks. You can scroll back a few posts to see some of the others, and the inspiration for this quilt.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, Dinkel River Sculpture, NL
This one is a beautiful slab of rock with the route of the Dinkel River in eastern Holland carved on it. The dots are small towns, including Oldenzaal, where my friend, Lies Koster lives.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, with electric bicycle, NL
I've just ridden Lies' electric bicycle (a Swiss Flyer) 15 miles to the Bentheim Castle, across the Dutch border in Germany. I love that bike... most comfortable and still a decent workout, even with the electric assist. I want one!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, Emtinghausen windmill, DE
Oh goodness, a giant chick visited the Emtinghousen windmill in Germany while I was there with Sabine Keichel!!!! Do you think we screamed and ran away or shared our lunch sandwiches with it?

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, winter horn blowing, NL
Jan Knol, partner with Lies Koster, is demonstrating the Christmas and wintertime tradition of horn blowing in the Netherlands.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, house in Denekamp, NL
This is Jan's house and yard. A bird-lover, vegetable and flower gardener, Jan's runs a bed and breakfast place in his home in Denekamp, eastern Holland, where I stayed for a week. Lovely place, great breakfasts, happy memories!!!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, Kloster Wienhausen, DE
In Germany, I spent an afternoon walking around the grounds of Kloster Wienhausen, a serene and beautiful abbey, a secluded and safe place where widowed women, women who need a home, women of the church, can go to live.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, religious pendant
I've had this old pendant or charm for such a long time, I don't remember where I got it. It's the perfect embellishment for the abbey block, simple yet elegant.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, detail, grapes, Sonderborg, DK
My friend, Joska, in Sunderborg, Denmark has built a grape arbor in his backyard, with several varieties of grapes growing in large, healthy clusters. Although the bees had found the grapes, we managed to pick as many as we could eat.

The museums in Budapest are all housed in magnificent, old buildings, well maintained, striking examples of architecture. This is a bit of the mosaic floor in the entrance to the Museum of Applied Arts. I embellished the photo with a wool felt heart embroidered with a bouquet of roses because I love being in Budapest.

The above blocks are are pictures from my trip to Europe last October. Now we'll travel backward in time to June, when I took a month-long road trip, stopping at various national and state parks, attending my 50th college reunion, and visiting family in MN.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, iris, St. Paul, MN
My brother, Matt, and his wife, Karen, are super flower gardeners! One of my favorite times in MN was sitting on their back yard deck, with Benny, the cat, on my lap, my mind calmed and refreshed by the lovely flowers and birds in the yard. These iris bloomed while I was there!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, Minnehaha Falls, Minneaoplis, MN
Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis was in full flow in June, with enough water pouring down its 53-foot drop to raise a continuous, gigantic splash as it hit the pool at the bottom.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, Lean on Me, sculpture, Collegeville, MN
Heading westward again, I stopped at St. John's University, where I found this lovely surprise, a towering sculpture made of woven willow and ironwood branches, five "huts" all leaning on each other. The artist, Patrick Dougherty, named it Lean On Me. Here's a really cool youtube video showing how it was made.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, bison, Yellowstone National Park

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, rock formations, Yellowstone National Park
A week in Yellowstone National Park was just not long enough to take in all the beautiful wildflowers, the animals, and the rock formations. This June I'm headed back there again for more!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary quilt, east entrance, Glacier National Park
Entering Glacier National Park on Hwy. 2 from the East, one has a panoramic view of the formerly glacier-covered peaks behind rolling plains where once bison roamed freely. Stopping along the highway to take this photo, I felt the presence of wild buffalo. Remembering that feeling, I tried to find a way to convey the experience on this block.

Guess that's enough blocks for this post. You can see more of them by scrolling through the previous 3 posts. In the next post, I'll cover the process of assembling these blocks, ranging in size from half of a playing card to larger than a greeting card. As I look at the stack of finished blocks, it feels like a daunting challenge to figure out how to put them together in a way that will look good as a whole. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Travel Diary Quilt - More Blocks Complete!

Day 14 of work on my 2014 Travel Diary quilt.. and still loving it!!! I have completed 32 of 57 pillows (or blocks, the traditional quilting name for a component of a quilt top), most of them the easy ones, the ones I have a quick sense of how to embellish them. The remaining blocks are bit more challenging, forcing me to remember what I always tell my bead embroidery students:

 When you get stuck,
pick up a bead or a doo-dad you love,
and sew it on your piece.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Emese and Jacob, Denmark
Here are a few recently finished blocks... The one above is my God-daughter, Emese, with her husband, Jacob, ready to drive me to Sonderborg, Denmark. Since just prior to departure for Europe, I had been in a one-day workshop with Sue Spargo (waaaay fun), I took my wool applique with me on the trip. In Denmark, I had a number of happy stitching hours, and the interest of Emese, Jacob, and their kids to keep me going. So, of course, I had to put a chick on this block.

Generally the pictures are about 3-4" x 4-5", but the close-up pictures of people, I generally printed smaller, about 2" x 2.5".  These were challenging to embellish, because there isn't much room to tell a story with the beads. Here are four of them grouped together. You may recall, I made an "I Spy" quilt for Emese's daughter, Olivia (below, top right).

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, people pillows
I had a great time with Sabine in Bremen, Germany (above, top left). In the block below, I am standing by the Four Town Musicians of Bremen, the donkey, dog, cat, and rooster. As the myth has it, I have my hand on the donkey's hoof, and am making a wish. Although I dare not tell the exact wish, it did have something to do with Donkey-oti, my dear donkey friend back home.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Four Musicians of Bremen, Germany
You see the adorable donkey, bead embellishment? I must tell you about it!

donkey bead made by Shelly of Ginko 305
I guess you can get an idea of the size! It was made by Shelly at Ginko 305, who makes and sells miniature animals on Etsy. Although she had not made them as beads previously, when I messaged her with the request, she readily agreed. Now she's thinking she'll make more of her animals in bead versions!  I've got to have more of them... a reindeer will be the next one.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, at Anna's home, Felsöpakony, Hungary

The above blocks are grouped together, because they are all at Anna Feher's home in Felsöpakony, Hungary (except the selfie of her and me taken on the train from Budapest). When I'm with Anna, my friend and best bead companion for 25 years, I feel totally at home, and as her chalk sign says, totally welcome. We beaded and talked beads and got together with other beady friends for a whole week... pure heaven!!! With her husband, Attila (lower right), I share a love of Hungarian folk and American blues music, so we found time for that too!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, with Lies Koster, Netherlands

I also had a great week with Lies Koster, above. We share love of beading, quilting, folding paper, and full moons, among other things.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, T Roosevelt Natl Park
In closing, here is another block from last summer's road trip, from the northern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we saw perfectly round boulders, 3 feet in diameter, and wild horses (although not together at the same time, as the embellishment suggests). There were only a few humans in the park that day. Shhh, don't tell anybody what an exquisite place it is...

You can see what I will do with these quilted blocks here, and view a few more of the finished blocks here.


Friday, January 09, 2015

Travel Diary Quilt - A Few Finished "Pillows"

I'm working like a madwoman to get this quilt finished in time for a show at the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum during the month of April (a one-room exhibition of my work)!!!

Fifty-seven "pillows" in all. Thought you might like to see a few of the ones I've finished in the past couple of days.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Dumai, a tiger at Pt. Defiance Zoo
Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Berani, a tiger at Pt. Defiance Zoo
These are my favorite tigers at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA. Dumai (top) and Berani, raised together (as non-biological brothers) by zoo-keepers, are now just over 2 years old.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Freimaak celebration in Bremen, Germany
Roland, a knight of Bremen, Germany, is a central figure in the annual Freimaak (free market) celebration. The lucky penny was given to me by a very tall, handsome chimney sweep. I used thread embroidery to decorate the cookie and added threads to represent the strings on the balloons.

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, black bear in Yellowstone National Park

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, hiking in Yellowstone National Park
These two are both from my visit last June to Yellowstone National Park. The hiking and the animal sightings were fabulous at that time of year!

Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, Bentheim Castle, Germany
I had a wonderful time exploring the Bentheim Castle, a large, early medieval, hill-top castle in NW Germany, definitely recommended if you are ever in the area!


Robin Atkins, Travel Diary Quilt, detail, bead shop window display, Budapest, Hungary
My bead-sister, Anna Fehér, in Hungary, took me to several really great bead shops in Budapest, including a shop that mostly sold beautiful, finished necklaces patterned after traditional folk designs. This was the window display at the shop. While there, I purchased a pattern for one of the necklaces, which I used to embellish this "pillow". The beads are size 15s.

By the way, looooong ago, Anna is the one who gave me the 2 tiger kitten, the peacock, and the 2 rucksack stamped-metal charms I used in three of the above "pillows." Thank you, Anna!!!


It's waaaaay fun to embellish each of these preserved memories. The embellishment part goes fairly quickly, taking about 2-3 hours each for most of them. Let me know if you like seeing them... If so, I'll post more as I go along.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Travel Diary Quilt - Getting Started

wall quilt by Sabine Keichel in Bremen, Germany

The idea for my new quilt project is inspired by the above wall quilt created by Sabine Keichel, a dear friend in Germany.

quilted "pillows" which when sewn together make a wall quilt by Sabine Keichel
It's made by stitching a bunch of separately made "pillows", stuffing them with batting, whip stitching around the edges, and adding embellishment and/or quilting stitches, then sewing them all together. Her quilt is full of play and fun and memories. I love it, and want to see if I can do something similar.

Mine will be about travels in 2014...
  •  Feb - southern CA to visit my sister (Redland's area)
  • June - road trip, with long stops at parks (Yellowstone, Itasca, Roosevelt, Glacier, Yakima R. Canyon, etc.) and college class reunion in MN - 1 month on the road
  • Oct - visiting friends and meeting internet beaders in Europe (Denmark, Germany, Holland, Hungary) -1 month
  • Nov - Columbia River Gorge and Portland area
  • Dec - Tacoma, WA (tigers at Pt. Defiance Zoo, visit bead friends)
Took over 8,000 photos along the way, and collected stuff (seed pods, fabric, ribbon, thread, rocks, charms, beads, coins, etc.) in all these places.

Decided to make a wall quilt to tell the story, preserving the photos and ephemera collected and saved along the way. Working title is: 2014 Travel Diary. 

photos ready to print on inkjet printable fabric - Robin Atkins - Travel Diary Quilt
I began by going through all my photos, selecting a few (57 as it turned out) that represent the moments I absolutely do not want to forget, ever. These I sized to +/- 4 inches at 200 resolution. In MS Publisher, I arranged the photos, 4 per page, giving each a 1/2 inch colored border, as shown above, creating print-ready layouts.


Dritz inkjet printable fabric - package 12 sheets
I printed the photos, on inkjet printable fabric, "Printed Treasures" by Dritz. It's a decent quality, 100% cotton poplin, white. After printing, let the fabric dry for a couple of minutes, and then separate the paper backing, pulling it apart from the fabric, allow to dry further, then rinse and air dry. Cut the images apart, and they're ready to sew.

Digging into my rather substantial scrap bin (and mighty happy to have found a use for some of it), I selected a backing fabric for each photo. I chose on the basis of personality, subject matter, and color. This step was waaaaay fun!

After cutting the backing fabric about 3/16" larger all the way around than the photo, I cut a piece of cotton batting to just a tad smaller than the photo (not including border), made a photo fabric-batting-backing sandwich, and stitched around the photo area to create each pillow. (The batting does not extend beyond the stitching.)

photo - batting - backing fabric sandwiched together and sewn

The next step takes some time! Turning under the edges, I whip-stitch around the pillows using #8 pearl cotton thread. I've gotten better and faster at this step with practice, thank goodness.

use #8 pearl cotton thread to whip stitch the edges of each pillows
pillow with edges whipped, ready to quilt and embellish
pillows with edges whipped, ready to quilt and embellish
After whipping the edges, the next step is really fun... to embellish and quilt each of the pillows! Here are a few I've done so far.

completed pillow - whipped edges, quilted, embellished - Robin Atkins - 2014 Travel Diary Quilt

completed pillow - whipped edges, quilted, embellished - Robin Atkins - 2014 Travel Diary Quilt

completed pillow - whipped edges, quilted, embellished - Robin Atkins - 2014 Travel Diary Quilt

completed pillow - whipped edges, quilted, embellished - Robin Atkins - 2014 Travel Diary Quilt
And here's an idea of what they will look like when they are sewn together. Of course, I will finish all 57 pillows before arranging them and stitching them together.

final step is to sew the pillows together to form a wall quilt
A few things I've learned so far:
  • When you pull the paper backing off the inkjet printable fabric, a considerable amount of the bonding glue sticks to the fabric. It doesn't wash off. Bummer. It's really hard to hand stitch through the printed fabric.... requires a needle puller.
  • Adding a color-matching border around the photos was a really good idea, because when I whip-stitch the edges there won't be little slices of white showing if the stitches are short of the edge of the photo.
  • I'm having a difficult time beading on the photos, especially doing anything improvisational or where the embellishment takes over the photo.
  • I'd like it to be more "funky"... more playful and fun, less like a photo album on the wall. It's a struggle, but I'm working on it.
  • If I ever do this again, I will make larger pillows with smaller photos, piecing around the photos with fabric scraps. That way, the photo can remain plain, the embellishments on the surrounding fabrics.
  • If I ever do this again, I will stuff the pillows with loose batting (such as you would to make stuffed dolls) rather than flat quilt batting. 
One more thing:

You might like to know that Sabine (my inspiration for this project) got her inspiration from Teesha Moore's set of 4 tutorial videos about making the pillows (in her unique way,) and using them as covers for her journals!  They are definitely worth a "look see!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New Fabric Storage System

My Christmas present to me... no more lifting heavy tubs of fabric in and out of the closet!


old frabric storage system: Fabrics stored in large tubs and various smaller containers

old frabric storage system: Fabrics stored in large tubs and various smaller containers
The way it was:
  • fabric stored in large tubs, each weighing over 30 pounds 
  • tubs stacked on the floor in a closet located in my office/computer/sewing-storage room 
  • when I needed something, I had to lift the tubs out of the closet, find the one(s) that might have the desired fabric in them (always on the bottom), and then carry the tub(s) to my studio, where I have table space and can sort through all the fabrics
  • back breaking, daunting, not fun at all
frabric storage system: Empty closet for storing fabrics

The side-to-side measurement of the closet opening is about 70 inches. There is a shelf and clothes-hanging rod, which I want to keep, in case the room needs to be reverted to bedroom status again (its original use). The shelf is 65 inches from the floor. The depth of the closet is 24 inches. This space, where all the tubs and totes were stored previously, is shown empty, ready for the new system.

After thinking about what to do for many moons, my idea was to buy some sort of shelving units, like bookcases, and place them two-deep in the closet. The rear units would be bolted to the back wall of the closet, side by side. The front units would be on castors, so they could be moved out of the closet for access to the fabrics in the rear units.

frabric storage system: 4-shelf bookcase manufactured by South Shore

An internet search followed, and turned up 4-shelf, composite-material bookcases, in white, by South Shore. Available from Target, they were exactly the right size, and the price ($56.99 each, with free shipping) was right too. I ordered them! I don't know how long this link will last, but here's where I got them.

I hired a good handy-man to help me get the shelving units ready for my fabric. The rear units are bolted to the back wall of the closet. We fortified the front units by attaching quarter-inch plywood to the back and adding wood blocks under the bottom shelf, to which we attached the castors. We also added handles to use when I am rolling the units.


frabric storage system: sorting, ironing, folding my fabrics
Now for the fun (and hard work) part. For four long days, tub-by-tub, I emptied my fabrics onto my studio tables, sorting and organizing them into stacks. I ironed each piece of fabric and folded it into a specific size, the size you get when you fold the 22 inch length of a fat quarter in half and in half again, and then fold that in half along the 18-20 inch width. The result is roughly 9.5" deep by 5.5" wide, perfect for shelves that are 11.5 inches deep.


frabric storage system: larger and smaller folded pieces on the shelves
I have a lot of half-yard and fat quarter pieces. This folding system works well for them. Fabrics of 1 yard or more, I folded into a larger bundle, stacked separately, as you can see in the above photo (right side of both shelves). Note that you can see the handles (for moving the shelving unit) at the top of the photo.

It works!!! I am delighted to be able to see my fabrics easily, without lifting, carrying or rooting through the tubs!


frabric storage system: rear shelf units bolted to back wall of closet
Here's how the rear shelves look. (I haven't finished putting things that go here on these shelves yet.)

frabric storage system: Front shelf units filled with cotton batiks and prints

Here's how the front shelves look when they are in front of the rear shelves. The fabrics I use most often, cotton batiks and prints, are here, easily available to flip through when I need something.


frabric storage system: Front storage units rolled out of closet
This is what it looks like when the front units are rolled out. They are pretty easy to roll. As you can see, I've tried to keep more weight toward the bottom. My handy-man is concerned about earthquakes, and wants to figure out a system to attach the front units to the rear units. I'm thinking a couple of simple door hooks on the sides would work.

frabric storage system: closet curtains close to protect fabrics from light damage and dust
The curtains close to prevent light damage to the fabrics and hopefully keep the dust off them (partially closed above). I've been thinking about using Velcro to attach clear plastic over the shelves of the front units, but maybe it's OK with just the curtains. Any thoughts about that?

Nearly finished now... just a few odds and ends to fit into the system, and plenty of space to do that. I thought I had a ton of fabrics, more than I'll ever use... and probably I do. But, for better or worse, there is now room for more. Yikes!