Four Fabric Forest

It was a very enjoyable day with Lisa Crnich yesterday learning her method for making a four fabric forest. The weather was hot outside, but we were cool and comfortable at the North Plains Senior Center, and we enjoyed a nice potluck lunch. Fruit was in abundance among the potluck dishes, and so even lunch was cool and comfortable.

Before starting, we had a chance to look again at Lisa's beautiful quilts made in the style of Ruth McDowell.

There are a number of books for sale on Ruth McDowell's website, and so it's worth taking a look. Her technique is not difficult. Nevertheless, taking this class from Lisa was a great head start to understanding the methods described in Ruth's books.

Our goal for the day was to create a four fabric forest. Here are a couple of examples from Lisa's work.

She started by showing us the photograph she used to create her pattern, and then gave us some ideas about how to create patterns from such a photograph.

She encouraged us to choose some fabrics we thought we might like for our own creations, and then gave us some ideas, tips, and rules of thumb for choosing a winning combination. Fabrics can be dark or light, but trees should contrast well and bring out the hard line between tree and background. Our foreground should be something darker or brighter than our background. The midground should be something that is more "blurry" while the sky background should be more "lacy" with lots of white flecks that suggest light shining through tree tops. Also, linear designs are to be avoided or cut in such a way that the orderliness of the design disappears. Nature is not orderly.

Some other suggestions included choosing fabrics with three or more colors in common. Also, when squinting one's eyes to blur one's vision, the hard line between the three fabrics should disappear somewhat.

 Here are some examples with foreground to the left, midground in the middle, and sky background on the right. See what you think.

Notice that some of the midground pieces are not "blurry". However, the scale is large enough that the design will disappear when the fabric is cut into strips.

Here are some examples of fabric strips cut for trees. It was surprising how many different and un-tree-like fabrics began to take the shape of trees when cut into strips. Some were even literal trees that had been cut cross-wise to increase interest.

Here are some fabric combinations selected from the fabrics I brought to class. Interestingly, I ended up using just one of my own fabrics...the one in the lower right-hand corner.

We were provided a pattern, and the first step was to tape the pattern to a light source (in this case, a window), and then to tape freezer paper over the top with the shiny side up. While I had my lightbox along, it was easier to do this using the window as a light source. It's helpful to spread out and trace the whole pattern at once, rather than the pieces the size limitation of the lightbox would require.

Here, it was important to use the Sharpie brand ultra-fine point pens for tracing the lines of the pattern. Other brands, including the Pigma brand, will smear on the shiny side of the freezer paper.

When the lines were drawn in, we flipped our tracing over to the dull side, and then taped it below the pattern. It was important to do the remainder of the work on the dull side. The shiny side will be ironed to the fabrics to create the pattern pieces. Any markings within the edges of the pattern piece will transfer to the fabric during ironing.

The traced lines are visible from the light source, but it is now reversed from the pattern. Next, one color of highlighter is used to demarcate the boundaries of the piece, and a second color to highlight the sections. It is also helpful to mark the top of the tracing.

Then, colored pencils are used to label the sections of the pattern A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, and so forth.

After that, hash marks are added along the lines (to facilitate matching the pieces when they are sewn).  X's are marked over any intersections.

When that was finished, it was time to begin cutting pattern sections apart, ironing them to our fabrics, and then cutting them with a quarter-inch seam allowance. Our work was pinned to design walls to begin.

It was time to decide if our four fabrics were going to work well together. Lisa and I agreed that my midground fabric needed to be turned in the image below. While the directionality wasn't important in smaller strips, it was a bit too obvious in this, the largest piece in the whole quilt pattern.

When I reached that point, I took some time to peek at some of the other students' work.

It's interesting to see how different fabrics can so completely change the look of the pattern.

Toward the end of the day we started sewing our pieces together. This process is essentially paper-piecing with freezer paper. I sewed my largest strip together along with one of the trees and then decided to pack it in and head for home. My neck was starting to bother me, and I was just tired of working on it.

It's always exciting to learn a new technique. I've been to classes where I ended up feeling more frustrated than empowered, but this technique was of the latter kind. Lisa Crnich is an excellent instructor (she's also a fourth grade teacher), and her style is friendly and relaxed. She lives in the local area, and she invited us to sign up for her email mailing list for information about more classes on Ruth McDowell's style. Ruth McDowell is retired from teaching now, and so I'm grateful to have Lisa nearby. I love this style of piecing, and this class left me hungry for more.

Today I'm going to put aside my four fabric forest just briefly so that I can finish up the Vintage Tin quilt top. My sashing fabric arrived Friday, as expected, and it's washed and ready for use. The scale is a little smaller than I expected, but I think it's going to be fine for my quilt.

This fabric came from Fabric.com. I've had good luck with online fabric shopping on their website, and I like that they'll give me free shipping with a minimum $35 purchase. Of course, you don't have to buy much fabric to rack up $35 worth. They have a nice clearance section, and I almost always find something on sale. And since I'd rather put my money toward fabric than shipping, it feels like a bonus to have a choice. With that in mind, this was my bonus fabric for this shopping trip. I've purchased this fabric in several colors, and it always gets used right away. It's very versatile.

Besides, it made me think of this sunflower that bloomed a few days ago, compliments of the squirrels. They're always planting the sunflower seeds they find under the bird feeders, and these random sunflowers come up all over the yard and field.

They can be pesky and destructive little buggers, but I do like their gardening habits.

And that's it for me. I'm chomping at the bit to finish up that Vintage Tin quilt, and that's where you'll find me today.


August Goals and Progress Report

It's been a hot, hot summer here in the Pacific Northwest. We've lived here since 1978, and we've never seen such a string of hot days and weeks, nor temperatures as high as they've been. We left Phoenix to escape the heat, and this summer has felt so much more like the desert than the Portland we know and love.

The basement sewing room is the best place to be in hot weather, and so my list of goals for the month has been easy and comfortable to accomplish. Here's what happened in July:

Quilting and Flimsies

1.  Quilt and bind the Over the Moon table runner so that I can show it off at the July guild meeting on July 20th. Complete!

2.  Sew into a flimsy the "To the Rescue" baby quilt for my friend Carol's first grandson. Complete!

3. At least get a start on sewing together the "Vintage Tin" quilt I'm making for Erik's October birthday. My goal was to "get a start" and I've managed to take this almost to the flimsy stage. I'm very hopeful that it will be finished before the weekend is over. And so it is with great pleasure that I check this one off as Complete!

Special Projects

Things were switched up a little in July. Instead of working on blocks, challenges, etc., I decided to do some special projects that have been on the backburner for quite a while.

4. Complete this Quilter's Tool Tote from Enchanted Valley Arts. Complete!

5. Also, complete this "Chatelaine" around-the-neck tool belt. Complete!

6. I still want to keep up with my one block per week on Lisa's Live, Love, Teach retirement quilt. On the drawing board for this month are Blocks 21-24. Complete!

Utility Sewing

7. Sew sleeves on two of my quilts set to be entered in this year's Oregon State Fair. The Psycatdelic quilt. Complete!


8. The Shoot for the Moon quilt. Complete!

That's plenty for one month, but I always need something for

Quilt Sandwiches

9. Sandwich the remaining quilts on the to-be-quilted pile, including Dream Machines. Complete!

10. Doors of Ireland. Complete!

11. Assuming I actually get it sewn into a flimsy...To the Rescue (pictured above). Complete!

And so DING, DING, DING!!! Bonus points awarded! 

Can I keep up the pace in August? Let's see what I have on my August to-do list. Bring it on!

Quilting and Flimsies

1. At the tippy-top of my to-do list is to finish up the Vintage Tin flimsy and sandwich it for quilting. That one has to be finished for Erik's October birthday, and so it will be on the slate for September quilting.

2. Quilt and bind To the Rescue. This one is going to baby Grayson in Colorado. Grayson was born at the end of May, and so I want to get his quilt off to him before he heads off for college.

3. With Vintage Tin so close to flimsy stage, I'd like to try to finish off the Mom Cats quilt I started for the Let's Book It challenge quite some time ago. It just needs embellishment and then it will be ready for quilting and binding.

Monthly Challenges

4. As is my usual modus operandi, I'm two months behind on 

This month's goal is to make a red cat for July. August's color is indigo. These are the cats I have so far.

As you can see, I already have an indigo cat, made for the blue month. With that in mind, I think I'll make a black cat for August.

5. I missed participating in the July's

Join me on the Block Lotto Blog

and so I'd like to make a block in August.

6. Also, I've missed the Let's Book It challenge for the past two months.

I'd like to give another try to a table runner I chickened out on some time ago. Since then I've learned a new technique for sewing inset shapes. Also, I saw this table runner made up when I was in Sisters last month, and so I'm ready to try it again.


7. For this goal, I'm going to back way up to a goal I set for myself in June, when I made no progress getting it done. With that in mind, I'd still like to make two more block sets for Yard Art...a project so long on my WIP list that it's beyond embarrassing. 

8. Another project on my to-do list for much too long is the Mumm's the Word quilt. I'd like to make the next section of blocks for this quilt as well.

9. Finally, I want to keep up with making a block each week for Lisa's Live, Love, Teach quilt. This month, I'll be working on blocks 25-28. When those are finished, half of the blocks will be complete.

Of course, I always like to put something on the list for

10. For this month, assuming I get the Vintage Tin quilt sandwiched, I'd like to get a start on quilting it. It absolutely, positively must be finished by October, and so time's a-wastin'.

That's a good list for the month. Time to get sewing. 

What projects would you like to make progress on in August?