Stitching It Together

Old Fashioned New Quilting resized cropped.jpg

Free-motion machine quilting = meditation. 

Or at least that's how I see it. This part of the process allows me to literally touch every square inch of the new work, placing color where it belongs.

I change the thread color to match the fabric color. The random, non-directional quilting pattern allows the viewer's eye to see "through" the quilting to the diamond below.

I've decided to call this piece "Old Fashioned New". I experimented with different quilting patterns to see which I might like best. I'm still sold on the non-directional flame pattern that I use in most of my work. It doesn't detract from the faceting pattern as the more directional quilting does. What do you think?

Next Step: Star Charting

Doesn't it feel GREAT once the design has emerged right before your eyes?

The next step for me is to work on my "Star Charts". My handsome husband named the process when he once commented that the final product looked to him like a constellation map. I love the way his mind works!

Note: This finished work will be displayed in portrait format with the blue section at the top. However, my studio walls don't accommodate 7 feet templates, so I'll lay this one on its side to chart.

Note: This finished work will be displayed in portrait format with the blue section at the top. However, my studio walls don't accommodate 7 feet templates, so I'll lay this one on its side to chart.

Star-charting is the process of creating a life-size pattern of the design. Major sections of the diamond are identified, facets are drawn, and each receives its own set of codes for location, color, and position to one another.

Nothing complicated about the tools: rolls of freezer paper (found in any grocery store), double-sided tape, pencil, heavy duty eraser, ruler, and square (if you think you need some additional help keeping your lines straight), and markers.

I suppose I could plunk down a couple hundred dollars and buy myself a projector that would allow me to draw my designs directly onto the freezer paper template, but I prefer to go old school. Drawing a grid onto the mock-up at a 1": 12" ratio gives me the chance to study the design more closely. Once the major grid lines are down, I dive deeper into the design, finding the major sections of the faceting and the shards of light within each.

Freezer paper sections are taped together, 12" grid lines are drawn, and the naked template is up on the wall. Time to start charting!

Once the facets are drawn, the template comes off the wall and onto a flat surface for coding. A simple numbering method helps me keep track of every single piece. Coding for color variations is the second step. I put together a color key that ascribes a combination of letters for each hue, tint and shade. Assigning every piece a color really allows me to get deep into the design and understand the flow of color across the facets. The last step is to add hatch marks (adjacency marks) on every line delineating the facets. This is crucial to accurate piecing.

As tempted as it is to just start cutting the template apart so that I can get to the next step, I have one last critical step: making a copy of the final freezer paper design. The copy will serve as your key to construction. And if you're like me and sometimes lose a tiny piece or two during the process, the copy will allow you to replicate any piece that has mysteriously "walked away" during the cutting process. I use the large format printer at my local Fed Ex Store. The cost isn't prohibitive and the machine is easy to use.

Next: Painting fabric!

From Diamond to Design

There truly is no step in this process that I don't love. Each one brings me joy. 

My last post (The Right Light) described finding the right diamond image, one that has a personality or a story to tell. Today I'll describe the fun involved in transforming an image into a potential design for future work. 

Photography by Geoffrey Watt @Mayer and Watt

Photography by Geoffrey Watt @Mayer and Watt

This is the stone that caught my attention -- a beautiful peach Zoisite from the collection of Laurie and Simon Watt. (You can see the rest of their incredible collection of colored gemstones at After giving it a little make-over by boosting the color, I spun it around to look at it from different angles. 

It was certainly a stunning stone all by itself, but I wondered how a companion stone might enhance the image. Georgia O'Keeffe had a wonderful take on color theory. She said colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel are Friends, while colors opposite one another are Lovers. Marvelous!  Since blue and orange are complementary colors, this is the handsome sapphire I chose for my lovely leading lady. A mysterious charmer, isn't he?

I worked with both images on my PC, but nothing really caught my eye. The designs I was able to produce seemed lifeless, so I decided to change my focus at that point.  My "Bourbon Diamond" series is inspired, not only by amber gems, but Kentucky's iconic spirit and the amazing Kentucky bourbon distilleries that create it. Willett Distillery in Bardstown is one of the most historic distilleries in Kentucky.  Once I spotted the angular lines of the distillery's tin roof and its variegated brick exterior, I knew what might solve my design issue. I went back to the drawing board, threw in a diagonal line, and increased the scale of the facets. The design immediately started to get more interesting. 

Historic Willett Distillery (Bardstown, KY)

Historic Willett Distillery (Bardstown, KY)

Adding a diagonal line and increasing the facet sizes made all the difference...

Adding a diagonal line and increasing the facet sizes made all the difference...

I knew I needed to get my hands on the images, physically moving around the pieces until something sang out to me. I printed out the images, cut them up, and began mashing them back together in new configurations. 


Next time I'll share a bit about the process of taking this little mock-up and turning it into a full-scale work.