Friday, August 11, 2017

Roman Tiles - Part 2 (or….the day that Math let me down)

As I ended the last blog, I knew that I would never have the patience to paper piece a large quilt so I wanted to look for other options.  I wanted to do it in a way that I could enjoy the creative process rather than struggling with the construction aspects.  I knew of one way to do it……FUSE IT!!!

The first step was to find a background fabric that would act as the “grout”.  I knew that most of it would be covered up by tiles so I didn’t worry a lot about the quality of the fabric that I was using.  I didn’t have a piece that was the right color,  so pulled out a basic white fabric and planned to paint it greyish.   I do not own any fabric dyes but have old pots of “Set-a-Color” fabric paints (bought on a clearance sale for about 50 cents each).  Many of them are so old that they have to be re-hydrated before use!!    I did have a large, fresh bottle of white paint, so I mixed up my paint pot, using the undyed fabric to sop up some paint that had spilled…..IMG_3535

I plunged the fabric in and let it soak up all of the color.  When it came out and was heat set and washed, I was happy with how it looked…..


Now when I picked this piece of fabric (or rather 2 pieces of fabric)  I knew that it was going to have to be seamed to make it the proper size.  Once again, because it was going to be completely covered with tiles, I didn’t worry too much about this seam.  However, I didn’t want there to be a ridge, so I actually just used a small strip of Wonder Under and fused the two pieces together.

Next I needed to pick the tile colors.   I had originally thought about bright colors, but as I looked at the inspiration photos, I realized that I might want to go with more muted colors.   I pulled a few fabrics from my stash…..Picture1Well, actually I pulled a few TOO many!!!

I finally started thinking about the actual design for the quilt, and after much trial and error, came up with this basic plan……


The black strips are bits of fabric that I have hanging on one side of my design wall and I grab them when I need to define a shape on the wall so that I can better visualize the size that I will be working with.

I started with the center circle, deciding to use this photo as my starting point……


Now comes the sad Math realization.   You see, I LOVE Math…..I loved it as a kid, I loved it in High School, especially Calculus class which is where I met my sweetheart for life (but that is another story).  I even sometimes do Algebra problems for the fun of it!!!   But, when it came to trying to divide this circle into 26 parts, it was just too hard to do.   As I mentioned in the last post, the tools that I had were not detailed enough to allow me to get the results that I wanted.  I even tried calculating the Circumference of the circle…….circumference-formula-using-radius

….and measuring the outside edge of the wedges that I needed…..IMG_3553

….but I just couldn’t get the wedges even.

I thought that I had it one time….


…. only to realize that I had split the circle into SIXTEEN wedges rather than TWENTY-SIX……sigh!!

OK….Math had let me down, so let’s move to the Financial world.   I pulled up Power Point and set up a Pie Chart that had 26 sections of $3.8462, and voila…..


….I had what I needed.

It was then a no-brainer to draft the circle…..


I used a piece of Freezer Paper to draft the design on and then had the idea that I could use the freezer paper to mark where the design was going on the background.


I picked a fabric and made a start…..IMG_3567

When I stepped back from fusing this first set of triangles, I was thrilled with the way things looked but it started me re-thinking my plan.  First of all, I really liked having a lot of the grey fabric showing and simplifying the pattern made it even nicer  (ie….no small triangles in each of the grey triangles).

I moved to the first corner, laid out my freezer paper pattern and started placing the next set of fabrics onto the base……IMG_3569While doing this, it hit me that since I wasn’t going to completely cover the base fabric, I was going to have a problem with the places where the previously fused “seam” was located.   I was not going to be able to cover it up and I was afraid that it would mar the look and the structure of the quilt top.

SO…… I started over!!!!


More to come…………………

Monday, August 7, 2017

Roman Tiles on my Mind

Before I get into the creative process of my newest quilt attempt, you need to hear the story behind the inspiration.  For that, I take you back to September of 2010, when Michael and I had the opportunity to spend a month in Rome.   Here is the story of this inspiration……

The second stop of the day was going to be the Church of San Giovanni in Laterno and the “Scala Santa” (more about this below).     The only problem was that the Holy Stairs closed at noon and it was already 10:50 so I knew that I needed to hurry. I jogged down to the Metro station and hopped onto the train, thinking that the metro station was right across the street from the church.  Unfortunately, this is what I saw when I got up to street level…..

_9279870Now, if I had of looked UP I could have seen the top of the Cathedral, but since I didn’t do that, I went back into the underground station and came up on the other side of the street, but still no church!!!  I walked a couple of minutes and then FINALLY looked up and saw the cathedral….

_9279872  ….on the other side of the wall around the city.  So, I hurried thru the portico and up to the cathedral.  I walked inside but couldn’t find the Holy Stairs and finally read in Rick Steve’s book that the stairs were in a building on the side of the church.  I started on the right side, but finally found out that they were on the left side of the church.  I got there about 11:40. 

Now about these stairs…..they are called “Scala Santa” and according to tradition, they were brought  to Rome in 326AD  by Saint Helen who was Constantine’s mother.  It was believed to be the stairway from the palace of Pilate in Jerusalem which Jesus was supposed to have traversed several times on the day of his condemnation.  It is comprised of 28 marble steps which have been covered with a walnut wood frame to protect them.  Tradition says that that you can only ascend the stairs on your knees and this is what I wanted to do!!!


I was one of the last to be allowed on the stairs before they closed for lunch.  It was quite painful to climb them on my knees, but was a wonderful, worshipful experience!!!

Now that I had accomplished my goal I returned to the church that I had madly rushed thru, opened the door and saw this…..


How did I miss this!!!!

I was in quilter’s paradise and proceeded to take 92 photos of the tile patterns on the floor, while two ladies sitting on a bench had a good laugh at me as I dutifully photographed every inch of the sanctuary.

The designs were magnificent…...

_9279857 _9279841 

Now, fast forward to today……

These tiles have stayed in my mind for 7 years now and I kept trying to figure out a way to piece them.  I decided to do a test and see if I could do it so started with one of the simpler designs….._9279825

First I needed to draft a good circle and split it into wedges.   I knew that I needed some drafting tools and started looking at various quilting supply sites but then had a thought to check the local hardware store.   There I found the circle drafter and spinning protractor…..


I also needed some heavy, large format paper to use for drafting and was happy to find bulletin board paper (used by teachers).   It was perfect!!!

I started playing with my new tools to draft the circles…..


Now let me say that the design of the circle creator is not wonderful and I had to be VERY careful to keep it in place….


Then came the problem of trying to split it into a series of even wedges.  I tried using the extended arm protractor but couldn’t get the measurements accurate enough but after MANY trial and error attempts I finally had a pattern that would work…..IMG_3422My original thought was to paper piece the design and I made a start…..IMG_3432

….only to find out two things…. First of all, I HATE PAPER PIECING (I already knew this but had hoped I could do it anyway), and secondly, I realized that it was going to be almost impossible to keep everything lined up perfectly.

So, I went back to the drafting table and reworked the pattern.   After a BUNCH of attempts, I ended up with this sample….IMG_3435

Even though I like how this looks, I knew in my heart that I would NEVER have the patience to paper piece an entire quilt top!!! 

So, on to the next idea……and the next blog……

Friday, August 4, 2017

Daughter-In-Law Perk

Before I start this post, let me say that I do NOT like making Tee-shirt quilts and I avoid them at almost all costs.  However, when your wonderful Daughter-In-Law asks if you will help her make one, you  say yes, smile broadly and look forward to spending time with her!!

Amber is an Art Teacher at an Elementary School in Gwinett County, just outside of Atlanta, GA.  It is a large school and she sees around 900 kids every single week!!  I am amazed with the way that she encourages them to not only learn about art but to practice it as well.   She encourages her students that  “Can’t isn’t a word” and “If you make a mistake, make something new out of it”. 

Last year she was accepted into a program called “Art 21” which works with 21 teachers from North America and it was a true honor for her to be included in this group.  She spent a week in New York City, studying modern art and learning how to include it in her curriculum and then worked with her mentors for the following year adding even more to her teaching repertoire. 

As part of her teaching, she runs an extracurricular art club to further encourage the students who have a deeper interest in art.  Over these 10 years of her teaching career the art club has had one or two tee-shirts each year with many of them being designed by her students.   These shirts were the base for our project.  We started out by laying out the shirts that we thought would fit together…..IMG_3406

We were both happy with the colors but realized that we needed a few more shirts to add some “pop” to the piece.  We added a few other shirts and were ready to go.

We had originally talked about interspersing cotton fabrics among the tee-shirts, but I had listened to a pod cast where they talked about only using tee-shirt fabrics so we decided that was the way to go.

While Amber cut the shirts apart…..IMG_3436

I started ironing the fusible interfacing to the backs…..IMG_3437

Then came the fun of cutting out the shirts and placing them on the design wall.   We started out cutting everything larger than we thought it could be and throwing them up on the wall, first just to see what we had.…..IMG_3439

And then beginning the arrangement process…..IMG_3442

There was lots of standing back and pondering…..IMG_3445

And moving shirts hither and thither……19665322_10107365049972660_4579165463506451010_n

At the end of the day we had a full fledged plan…..IMG_3456

... and the sewing started on our next day together.  Amber sewed while I tried to figure out how to put the pieces together with a minimum of Y-seams….


We started out using a 1/4 inch foot but the shirts crawled too much so we moved to the walking foot.   It was the perfect tool for the job.

At the end of the day, we had the top together and ready for a border…..IMG_3459

We had decided that a dark grey border would be perfect and Amber had offered to purchase the fabric.   Unfortunately, the only thing that she could find in the appropriate color was a super thin tee-shirt fabric.  We debated about trying to find another heavier fabric but instead decided to fuse two pieces together to make a heavier fabric and then add the fusible.   It was a bit labor intensive……IMG_3543 …..but the result was wonderful….


We made a back and now it is ready to go to a friend for quilting.

When finished, Amber plans to hang it behind her desk and use it to further encourage her students.

Several of her friends asked if I would make a tee-shirt quilt for them and she gracefully acknowledged that it was a “daughter-in-law perk”!!

I had a marvelous time spending those 3 days with Amber and hope that we can work on other projects in the future. 

She starts classes tomorrow and I wish her the best for a wonderful year!!!

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