Thursday, January 10, 2019

Value Study in Fabric

This project was just an experiment to see how this idea would pan out. With all the books I've read on Color Theory, I was thinking a lot about how to create different values in solid colored fabrics without having to hand-dye different color lots to get the desired effect.

One night when I wasn't sleeping (and thinking about color, fabric, and quilting - doesn't everybody?) I had the idea to try an overlay of near-transparent fabrics on top of solid colors to create the look of tints and shades of value with one solid colored hue.

So this is the project I worked on the whole weekend of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild fall retreat last October. I love retreats for concentrating on one project, there's no real reason to stop sewing if you don't want to!

I selected a fine netting from the special occasion/bridal section at the fabric store (after spending an entire afternoon looking at different transparent fabrics). Some of the fine tulle netting had a sparkle finish, some was super-shiny, but this kind had a matt finish which seemed like it would blend well with solid colored woven cottons.

In the photo above you can see the layers of the tulle in black and white on top of the same color blue cotton fabric. From farther away, the white and black blend with the solid color to create the illusion of a tint and different shades of the same hue.

After a full day of doing nothing but experimenting with bits and pieces on this technique, I discovered that basting the netting to the cotton worked best to kind of hold it all in place while stitching together the patchwork.

I think it took another day or so to complete all the basic squares in the design, which I organized in a kind of 12 step color wheel in the photo above. I used the CMY color wheel as my inspiration, and matched the 12 colors on the outside of the square to the CMY color wheel. The four squares inside are all achromatic, from white to black and a few grays. Which kind of makes this a CMYK min-quilt!

Here's what it looked like after stitching all the squares together.

The top REALLY pops with color and value, better than I imagined.

Part of this experiment was to see how the netting worked in the process of patchwork and quilting. It is a fragile material, will tear easily if you catch it on anything, and is difficult to press. I put a few small holes in (not that you can really see them) just from working with this piece. Some holes were from not being super-careful when moving the piece under the sewing machine needle, one was from thread snips, and one little hole was from a seam ripper.

At first I just stitched in the ditch, but it was clearly not enough quilting. The layers of netting created bumps and funky shadows over all the pieces. This is where I had to rip out the facing and add more quilting to each of the squares - it's just 1/2" quilting echoing each hue in the piece.

I wasn't sure if the netting would be shifty or slippery and puckery when quilted, but it actually did pretty well! And looked much better after adding the extra quilting.

The only downside was that I lost a bit of  area along the entire outside edge because it got a bit frayed and funky after I ripped off the old facing, and I can tell the outside edge isn't as nice and straight as it was at first.

But, since this was purely an experiment, it's all good! It looks great on my design wall, and I'm looking forward to trying this technique out again in the future. But first, there's 3 other in-progress pieces that need my attention!

Erika Mulvenna
Value Study, 2018
Cotton woven fabric, nylon tulle, cotton quilt batting, polyester and monofilament thread.
22 1/2" x 22 1/2"

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

300+ Years of Color Theory: Color Problems

I wasn't able to read this book in chronological order with the rest of the color theory books in my color theory reading project because it was previously unavailable. Luckily, this book was just reprinted at the end of 2018.

Color Problems: A Practical Manual for the Lay Student of Color by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel was original published in 1901, and reprinted in 1902-1903. You can find a free copy to read online here, but previous to the recent reprint this book was all but impossible to find.

Interestingly - I hadn't come across this book or any mention of it in my readings on color theory. It seems to have been lost to time, possibly because of the high cost of the original book, or even (according to one modern book reviewer) because the author was a woman writing about a subject dominated by men. I've often wondered while reading this list of color theory books why the authors were only men when clearly there have been amazing women working and thinking about color in the past 300 years. All of which made me SO EXCITED to read this book!

Clearly, Emily Noyes Vanderpoel is smart as hell when it comes to color. When this book was published 117 years ago, many people still didn't understand what color was, and were relying on age-old outdated ideas about the subject. Emily is extremely well-read on the subject (tackling some of the more scientific books about color vision theories) and explains it all quite clearly in her book, demonstrating a solid grasp of the various theories surrounding color vision and color pigments as used in art.

The author puts forth chapters to explain some basics about color; color vision in humans and color blindness, the most important theories about color, and concisely putting forth the most common color harmonies. All explained in an easy-to-understand manner, although some of the concepts can be confusing or hard to grasp.

The most exciting part of the book is the multiple examples of color studies shown in charts and diagrams (you can find her color analysis charts online free right here!). This is 50 years before Itten and Albers are teaching color in new, similar ways to Bauhaus students, and Vanderpoel is said to have been the first person to conceptualize the abstraction of objects simply to study the pure color combinations.

Some of these color studies include nested squares, so very similar to Homage to the Square series by Josef Albers 50 years after this book was first published.

Other color studies are abstractions of objects in grids. Here's an example of one of Emily's Color Analysis grids below.

These grids are 10 x 10 graphs (100 squares in the grid) that help to dissect the combination of colors, making it easy to quickly look at the ratios of colors used. There's a bunch of examples in the book, super interesting to look at each and every one.

Also intriguing are the author's Color Notes, nothing more than quick brush strokes of color to capture the overall color palette in an interesting scene or object. Notes with each page record basic information about where the color combination came from.

I'm still paging back through this book, especially the color plates, and thinking about the author's approach to studying color. I'd love to try some of the 10 x 10 Color Analysis grids myself in the new year, keeping them in my sketchbook for color inspiration. I'd absolutely recommend this book to you if you love creating with color, no matter what it is you create with.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Singer 185 Portable Sewing Machine

It's been awhile since I brought home another vintage sewing machine, right? I found this sewing machine in it's little carrying case on the floor of a second hand store hiding beneath a unicycle.

This is a Singer 185 K portable sewing machine. The letter after the number denotes manufacturing location, and the K means this little machine was made in Kilbowie, Scotland.

Apparently, the 185 was an updated version of the tried-and-true 99 model, the first real portable machine introduced in 1911. I guess after manufacturing the 99 for nearly 50 years with no changes, Singer thought it might be good to give it a makeover. The 185's were made from abut 1958 to 1963 and were available with a plastic carrying case. The plastic cases haven't worn well over time, they grow brittle and break easily. But, since the 185 has the same base size as the 99, this machine will fit any wooden case or cabinet made for the 99.

My particular 185 was manufactured in 1960. When I picked her up, I wasn't totally sure she worked because the belt was in shreds! But the machine turned freely with the handwheel, and the motor turned as well.

I replaced the belt and gave her a thorough cleaning this morning. The light on the back of the machine is TOTALLY futuristic looking! On the plus side, the light is in good working order. On the down side, I read online that the funky little bulb inside this light is no longer available, and I'm not sure where to find a new bulb when the current one burns out.

When I tried to sew the first time, the machine wouldn't form tight stitches.

After like 45 minutes of troubleshooting, I figured out that the whole tension assembly had been put together wrong! Just needed to be put together the right way, and she sewed!

My 185 didn't come with a manual or any accessories (although I found a blog posting a nice threading diagram here), but I did happen to find this nifty sewing box, about the same vintage, at the same secondhand store.

It's perfect for holding bobbins and accessories right in the top tray. I found a walking foot, a patchwork foot, bobbins, and a seam guide in my extra parts stash to go with this machine.

They make a nice pair, like they're meant to be together.

This seems to be one of those machines that has a small cult following of people who absolutely love it. Personally, I think my 99 sews smoother and feels more solid than this 185, but it still forms nice, even stitches and works well.

And most obviously, it looks freakin' cool!

Happy to have found her, and looking forward to sewing on her in the future. Welcome home, little green Singer 185!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Folded Fabric Ornaments

Did you ever make these folded stars out of paper strips when you were a kid? ;)

I've been playing around with making these Danish stars with fabric strips, they are so sweet and make great ornaments (and gifts!).

I had a feeling friends would be asking me how I made these, so I put together a tutorial that's posted over at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog today. Click here to go straight to the Danish Star Ornament tutorial, which includes lots of video snips showing the different steps in folding and tucking to create the stars.

If you have a good amount of fat quarters in your stash, or even pre-cut 2 1/2" strips, these are the PERFECT project! If you don't want to sew the one seam to create these stars, just use 1" wide ribbons in different colors and follow the same instructions.

I hope you enjoy the project!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Little Pillow from Diary In Stitches

Do you ever end up with any old throw pillows that could use a makeover? That's exactly where this project started - with the need for a pillow cover, and a copy of Minki Kim's new book, Diary in stitches.

This little pillow was also a fun part of the Diary In Stitches blog tour posted at WeAllSew!

I shared all about how I made this design from the book using Minki Kim's technique of drawing with stitches here. I loved trying out this technique, and the small bits of appliqué in the design was a great opportunity to use up little crumbs of my fabric scraps.

You can also find the entire tutorial for creating a pillow cover with hidden invisible zipper just like mine over here! It's super simple, and a great way to give your room a quick make-over.

I hope you enjoyed my project from Diary In Stitches - and the Invisible Zipper Pillow Cover tutorial!