19 November 2017

Mama Ru

Mama Ru, 74"x84". Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Creating art brings a tremendous amount of joy to my life, and boy howdy has that been important this year. I chose the subject because RuPaul gives me so much joy with his music, his podcast, and most of all with Drag Race. And this quilt brings me buckets of joy. 
I started with the inspiration of promotional photos for the Sissy That Walk music video. The process of making it has been a little scary. I haven't done many portraits and I wasn't entirely confident this one would work out. Would it read as Ru? Would the shifting colors just look like a rash? So many questions.
Improvisationally pieced log cabin blocks. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
The only thing to do was start. I decided that the portrait should glow from behind, and that I'd pull colors from the full rainbow. The portrait uses light values of red, orange, and yellow. The background uses dark values of green, blue, violet, and purple.
Quilt top layout. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
 I free pieced a bunch of small log cabin blocks, then arranged them on the design wall. I didn't have a plan other than I wanted the colors to flow green-blue-violet-purple. I started with a few green spots and filled it in. After a few adjustments I sat down to sew it all together.
Reverse appliqué layout. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Because I constructed the reverse appliqué patchwork in 12" blocks I had to do a bit more planning. I drew a grid overlay over a reduction of my portrait sketch to rough out the flow between yellow, orange, and pink. Then I made blocks corresponding to the grid. The blocks follow Chawne Kimber's "Roberta" pattern, a combination of 2 large squares, more medium squares, and lots of little squares. "Roberta" gives the appearance of randomness without complicating construction — similar to an ashlar paving pattern in the landscape.
Trimming. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
I cut out a paper template for the portrait and traced the design to the log-cabin layer using chalk pencil. Then I basted the two appliqué layers, sewed the outline, and rough-trimmed the excess fabric from the front and back. The trimmed bits and and any extra blocks form the bulk of the quilt back.
Quilting detail. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Finally I basted the quilt layers, quilted on my domestic machine, gave the raw edges a detailed trim, and threw Ru in the washing machine.
Appliqué detail. Photo credit Daniel Rouse
I was pretty sure it was going to come out okay, but I'm never certain my reverse appliqués will match my original vision until they come out of the dryer. As I mentioned at the top of the post I was especially unsure about this one. I'm so happy with how it turned out.
Photo credit Daniel Rouse
Mama Ru
Materials: cotton solids and prints
Techniques: machine pieced, raw-edge reverse appliqué, domestic machine quilted, hand bound
Finished size: 74" wide x 84" tall
Started: August 2, 2017
Finished: November 19, 2017

20 February 2017


"Asterism" is the second of two quilts that I will show at QuiltCon in Savannah, Georgia 23 Feb 2017 - 26 Feb 2017. 

"Asterism" is a typographical term - a group of three asterisks, traditionally set in a triangle but more commonly printed in a straight line, that serves as a visual section break in a longer chapter. At this dark pivot point in our history I look for the path that will lead us to a brighter future. I constructed the quilt top - both the improvised field and the precision-pieced asterisk medallions - entirely from used jeans, some of them mine and some second-hand.

I made the three medallions several years ago from the same batch of jeans. I wrote about my series of salvaged cushions in 2011. I called this particular iteration "Asterisk."

I went with pressed-open seams on the rectangular background to manage seam bulk. The curvy medallions came together cleanly with seams pressed to the side.

The backing is a pretty neat combination of orphan units from a wedge-curve class I attended with Sherri Lynn Wood way back when and a bunch of indigo cross-weaves and chambrays. I love the back of this quilt.

I quilted on my domestic machine with a walking foot, marking intermediately spaced lines with painting tape. My inspiration was falling water. I filled in the interstitial quilting with 1/2" - 1" spacing.

Chambray binding finished by hand. I made this photo into a button. Hit me up and I'll give you one at QuiltCon, while supplies last!

Here I'm blocking the quilt after washing. I like this picture because it gives a good idea of the quilting and the color. I had such a hard time getting the indigo right in the photos!

begun 2011, completed 2016
pieced and quilted by Daniel Rouse


"Permanence" is one of two quilts of mine that will be shown at QuiltCon in Savannah, Georgia 23 Feb 2017 - 26 Feb 2017. Like the quilt in my last post it is a large-scale raw-edge reverse applique quilt.

The technique was inspired by an antique quilt presented at a guild meeting several years ago. The torn top of the quilt revealed an equally tattered quilt sandwiched inside, worn to the point it served best as batting. The layers suggested the rich history of our shared quilting tradition. This particular design, begun in 2012, was prompted by Day of the Dead festivities.

The top layer incorporates a bunch of prints from the Daisy Janie "Shades of Grey" print collection - provided to the East Bay Modern Quilters as a fabric challenge - and a bunch of other gray and red prints and solids.

The reverse applique piece is a lonestar pieced of upcycled denim, some of it mine and some thrifted.

I beefed up the seam allowances of the denim for durability.

I usually trim away the excess patchwork around the border of my reverse applique. For this quilt I kept the entire lonestar in the quilt sandwich. In fact I quilted the denim, batting & backing using a heavy jeans-like thread before completing the applique.

You can clearly see the outline of the star on the quilt back.

The I added the top layer, sewed the applique outline, and cut out the excess to leave a raw edge. I quilted the gray and red bits on my domestic machine using a flame motif.

Weight: at least a ton
Begun 2012, completed 2016
Pieced and quilted by Daniel Rouse

18 February 2017

The Poetry of Manners and Motion

I have three quilts in shows next week, and I hope to post about each of them. Today I'm writing about "The Poetry of Manners and Motion." The quilt will be hanging at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia 23 Feb 2017 - 26 Feb 2017.
It is the only quilt I have remade. The first iteration I designed and sewed in 2011. I wrote about it here. I sold that quilt the same year, and immediately missed it. Five years later I decided to give it another go, enlarged and with new piecing and quilting challenges.
I lifted the title of the piece from the writings of John Muir, observing a blacktailed deer in Yosemite.
A fine specimen of the blacktailed deer went bounding past camp this morning. A buck with wide spread of antlers, showing admirable vigor and grace. Wonderful the beauty, strength, and graceful movements of animals in wildernesses, cared for by Nature only, when our experience with domestic animals would lead us to fear that all the so-called neglected wild beasts would degenerate. Yet the upshot of Nature's method of breeding and teaching seems to lead to excellence of every sort. Deer, like all wild animals, are as clean as plants. The beauties of their gestures and attitudes, alert or in repose, surprise yet more than their bounding exuberant strength. Every movement and posture is graceful, the very poetry of manners and motion. Mother Nature is too often spoken of as in reality no mother at all. Yet how wisely, sternly, tenderly she loves and looks after her children in all sorts of weather and wildernesses. The more I see of deer the more I admire them as mountaineers. They make their way into the heart of the roughest solitudes with smooth reserve of strength, through dense belts of brush and forest encumbered with fallen trees and boulder piles, across cañons, roaring streams, and snow-fields, ever showing forth beauty and courage. 
- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
I began this quilt as I did the first one: constructing the green reverse applique from cotton prints using a disappearing nine-patch pattern. Many of the prints were the same as the first iteration, many were different, but I stuck with the same range of greens. Caroline at Trillium Design generously sent me a fat quarter of the Joel Dewberry hummingbird print, which absolutely needed to reprise its role.
Next I set about the background. I employed Sherri Lynn Wood's wedge curve technique for the background of this and one other wildlife applique quilt. I started with curve segments from a series of wedges, maybe a dozen at a time. My original idea was a random series of waves and curves that would give a landform effect (much like the bear quilt, which you can find on my instagram until I blog about it).
The first bit I constructed was this keyhole shape (here stuck up on the design wall on top of the backing of the bear quilt) and my imagination latched onto how multiple keyholes would fit together.
So I made four similar bits, trying to keep them a similar size, using trimmed scraps from the two quilts for the keyhole centers. With one of the four pieces sliced in half I almost had a rectangle.
I filled in the voids with a combination of wedges and scraps.
And then the reverse applique, trimming the back, and cutting the front (the most nerve-racking step).
I love an elaborately pieced quilt back, so there I went. I started with forming the scraps of the trimmed stag into five circles, then surrounded a couple of them with leftover wedge curves.
I finished the composition with ALL THE SCRAPS and bits of yardage.
Quilting on my domestic machine...
And binding in green.
I love the quilting front and back. The quilting at the bottom is inspired by grass and wildflowers. There are a few more motifs in irregular bands moving toward the top, where I finish with a windy pattern.
The finished quilt is 84"W x 78"H
If you get a chance to see the show, I would love it if you could send me a photo of the hanging quilt. If you post to Instagram tag me @dsrouse.