Friday, September 25, 2015

Gotta Dance - Quilting Done - Whew!

Gotta Dance - drying after blocking
 Well all that is left is the faced binding and tweaking some of the quilting... from the back there are a couple of not so perfectly straight rows of quilting so I'll be ripping out some stitches here and there. As I mentioned last week, I lost the whole folder of my in progress shots making this quilt, but I did have a couple images here and there to show you at least how I made the pattern...

Here is my pattern - on graph paper as usual. Each square on the paper equals one 2 inch square of fabric. After designing the cityscape, I played around with arrangements of the New York Beauty blocks in the sky. For whatever reason, I decided that I only wanted the blocks to complete the dance - or make a complete circle - one time. This meant I needed to make the blocks curve and play nice together.

Because I'm working in 2 inch squares, the NYB blocks had to be small. Thankfully I found them for 8 inches and using my software reduced the blocks by 50%; making 4 inch blocks.

My pattern

 The figure of Gene Kelly came from the photograph below. I converted it to black and white and printed him out in a couple of different sizes. (3-4 inches? Can't remember.) Then I cut him out and placed him in the landscape. This particular Gene was too big and the other one I printed was too small so I picked a size in the middle. 

Remember, each graph paper square was 2 finished inches. You can't see the graph paper lines too well, but by cutting out different sizes of Mr. Kelly and counting the height of the squares he takes up in the landscape I figured out how big the pattern of him needed to be. 

Gotta Dance! My Mr. Kelly with his head thrown back in joy over his love of dancing.

 Last week I mentioned that this quilt was my triple threat quilt. Piecing the NYB blocks was the first challenge. The second was creating my dancing Gene. (I love calling him MY Gene. I think I'm crushing on the man... lol!) 

My photo of Gene was not high resolution. There was simply not enough pixels to make the freezer paper pattern clear. (There are no high resolution photos of this scene online.) I brightened up the photo, increased the contrast and posterized it, or something like posterize... I also printed out closeups of his hands and face and did the best I could converting the photos into a pattern with all his light and dark highlights and shadows being different patches of fabric. I started with the easy part - his jacket, then progressed to his vest, pants and shoes. I used a lot of my gray fabric dye marker and the white one used in scrap booking to blend the patches together.

I built him on the same tricot knit foundation that I use when I make large trees. It is a Pellon product; a light knit fusible interfacing for apparel called EK 130.

I also used Pellon Lite EZ-Steam II. (It has a sticky side, comparable to Steam a Seam Lite.) This product is hard to use - it is EXTREMELY sticky. It is a light sticky web with paper on both sides.  One side is a plain paper, the other has a blue grid drawn on it. I found that if I ironed the product to the fabric by peeling off the plain paper, that the paper with the grid printed came off easier when I scored it with a sharp scissors. I also discovered that I had better lick my fingers before I peeled off the paper or the patch would be destroyed as I peeled it off my fingers.

You do what you gotta do when you need to make something work. I had to use this repositionable applique product to try out different fabric patches. (If it didn't work, I could peel  off the patch.) I made my pattern on freezer paper and then cut apart the bits of the freezer paper pattern to build my  figure.

There are LOTS of artists creating portraits and I'm not going to try to 'teach' you what I did because frankly I was figuring it out as I went. I saved his face for last.

Did I mention that I lost sleep over this quilt? That I'm still not sleeping well at night?! That comes from biting off more than you can chew and pushing yourself out of your comfort zones. I have never wanted to express my joy of dancing, color and patchwork more than in this quilt and the stress really got to me. I'm still not sleeping... ugh.

So, on to the quilting. I used a blue wash out pen to mark a few places inside the NYB blocks and had to thoroughly wet down the blocks to make sure it all washed out. Because I used intense colors I was concerned about bleeding so I hung the wet part of the quilt over the shower rod so any bleeding would flow to the darker portion of the sky and then I quickly quickly towel dried the top.

My daughter woke up, saw me in the shower with Gene and snapped a picture. (I love my daughter... it is too bad that I didn't have the water on come to think of it. I could have been 'singing in the rain' with Mr Kelly in my own bathroom!) 

I'm squeezing and toweling in the rain... sort of. 

 Here is my first quilting closeup. Please please remember that I'm not known for my brilliant machine quilting. Until this point I've never quilted a traditional block so I was sort of at a loss. I quilt landscapes and am geometrically challenged as it were. 

Close up of the quilting 

 I liked the idea of quilting little circles around the bigger ones, so in many places I outlined the NYB blocks using a variegated thread. (Superior Rainbow thread on top and Bottom Line in the bobbin.) 

There wasn't a whole lot of room around the blocks for any intricate patterns, plus the prints underneath would have hindered seeing them anyway. So, I chose a filler pattern and then in some of the areas echoed the filler. It was one of those circle things with a hook... if you know the filler pattern I'm talking about.

I also didn't want to quilt wavy horizontals in the sky like I do in my regular landscapes, plus I wanted to give a nod to the movie "Singing in the Rain" so I chose to use metallic silver threads and to quilt narrow diagonals to mimic rain. You can't see it sparkle in the photographs, but I'm hoping that when it is hanging, those threads will sparkle.  

By the way, it was my friend Cindy Garcia who gave me the idea of using sparkly thread. I went though over a spool of the stuff and it was a PAIN to quilt with it since my sewing machine is so darn persnickety. I ended up buying a thread conditioner to run it through and had somewhat better luck after that. But I do want to thank Cindy for the good idea anyway! 

Quilting detail
 I just quilted long rectangular shapes in the distant sky scrapers and a squared edgy stipple thing in the foreground buildings - mimicking the print I was quilting.

Here is Gene. 
My Gene Kelly - sigh. I think I'm in love.
 I didn't want a boring 'stage' floor or a boring dark street on the bottom so I added  disk shapes made from yellow and rose colored tulle. These are meant to reflect the circles of color in the sky. If it is 'raining' these are the puddles. If he is on stage, these are the stage lights shining down on him. My friends have mentioned that it looks like there are fireworks going off in the sky, if so, then these are reflections of fireworks on the street where he stands. 

Gene's face
As with most quilt portraits, they look better from afar. However, I am very pleased with the way he turned out. I never thought I could pull it off to tell you the truth.

I'm sewing facing on today, and then preparing for my annual camping trip up to Lake Superior with my sweet hubby.  Next week I'll be putting on a sleeve I hope and then will show you the whole thing hanging.

I can't wait to get back to easier quilts, and I think I might start with a scene from a shot I took of the Grand Canyon at sunset.  Yep, compared to this, that will be an easy quilt!

Have fun with your quilting adventures and as always, comments are welcome. 


  1. What a dance!!! I guess you had a ball!!! Great composition, and thank you for describing the process. To those of us who are starting in this pictorial offshoot it is very illustrative to see how you have done it.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you like the quilt and enjoyed my story about it. :)

  2. Just brilliant! Love the rain, and the puddles, and especially "your" Gene. Thanks, as always, for all your good information. Have a good vacation!

    1. You're welcome and yes, I had a good time off in the north woods. :) Now I'm back and having to hit the ground running to catch up on all the work I didn't get done for the last 5 days, lol.

  3. This piece is stellar in every regard! It's a show stopper and sure to win awards! Thank you for sharing your informative and interesting process!

  4. I don't have enough superlative words to praise you with! Clap clap clap clap! Excellent. Sending a link to my bee who did an exchange this year with nybeauty blocks. LeeAnna at not afraid of color