I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sepia Photos ..... a few tips

Many times  you are going to be using photos that you might want to convert to sepia tones... Most photo editing programs allow you to do that. 

First you don't need to rush out and buy Photo Express or some expensive program...  I always recommend Picasa.  It is Google's photo program and it is free to download and does just amazing things...  Last summer they changed the icons which I thought was a mistake but it is still the best around for free..

But you may have  something already on your computer that you are not even aware of.... a program that came with your printer or camera.  You can easily find out.  Go to your picture file and RIGHT CLICK  on any picture and a little menu will pop up and one choice is OPEN WITH.  When you click on that it will tell you your options... You will probably have a basic program with your word program along with others.  It turns out one of my favorite is the photo editing program that came with my HP printer and I had it for years before I accidentally discovered it. It is simple and easy to use... So take some time to experiment with what already you have...

Even though they do a lot of the same things, they often have different terminology for the same action... Most have a tools for adjusting the overall color in a photo.... Some refer to saturation, others refer to  color temperature and Google calls theirs "warmify" (weird). I like the ones with a little bar you can adjust and see the change as you do it..  Both my printer program and Picasa have that feature... Sometimes converting a photo will be listed under "special effects"

Most often the photos you want to convert are black and white and they are easily converted..  I do NOT recommend converting colored photos directly to sepia without an intermediate step.  Convert them to black and white first..

For some reason the color in the photo affects the results of the sepia.. It's not all that obvious but if you are doing a series, it makes a big difference.

Here  I first changed the colored image to black and white and then to sepia. As a rule the colors in a photograph greatly affect the sepia tomes when you convert it.

When I put the one I changed directly  from color next to the one I changed from black and white you can see the difference.  The one on the right is B&W to sepia... look at the difference in the background and type... It is softer, smoother and the sepia tones are much more pleasant.  For one photo you may not care but if you are working with a series of photos, it makes a big difference.

Even if the  photo you want to use is already a sepia, it may be darker (or lighter)  than you want... Photo editing programs usually have a control for "saturation" and it will usually be a little bar that you adjust either darker or lighter.  I wanted this photograph to be lighter to go with the one above.

Most programs allow you to adjust the temperature as well... With sepia prints, the warmer the tones the older they look... Here you can see the effect of adjusting the temperature.  It is what Goggle calls "warmify".

This is not complex photo editing.  Once you find the tool it is quite easy....The first step is familiarizing yourself with what's on your computer.. and remember Picasa is FREE and free is good.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Piecing multiple blocks the easy way!!!

(I combined two previous posts into this one.) I know many people love piecing blocks but for me it is a tedious chore at  best.  So whenever I'm doing a batch I do a couple extra.  Since I have the whole mess out, it's not that hard to do a couple more.  I keep a bag of the extras and sometimes I use them when I join a round robin or give them to a student to get them going...  I just want to get the blocks done as soon as I'm able and get to the fun part...

I've tried the Martha Green's crumb method,  Allie's curve method, and Judith Montano method's of piecing.  But I always go back to just paper piecing and mostly use the same pattern over and over... This time  I'm using  Sharon Boggin's block pattern - #28.  This means every single block is #28.  Once you rotate the blocks and embellish, no one ever notices that they're all the same pattern...  Believe me!!!! I  enlarged it a bit so I will have an 8" square block when done.  If want some advice on choosing a paper pattern I posted some here.

I don't even pay any attention to what colors are going to go where on a block when cutting.  Once I have my pile of fabrics I just start stacking and cutting at random ... trying to get as many different fabrics per patch as possible...  Then I will sorta deal them out at random, making any necessary adjustments.  Of course this works the best when you have a large selection of fabric like I did this time..


If you did a good job gathering fabrics which  are harmonious, it is nearly impossible to mess up from that point on.  If you look at your fabrics in a pile and like them, toss them around and still like them, they are going to look good on a block no matter what you do... This the "pile test".  I do this with trims with students even before they pick fabric because it you assemble a pile of trims that work together, you can work backwards and pick the fabric last..

Now I had several choices.. I could make blocks one each month, or in smaller batches or do all 12 at once.  Doing them all at once will give you a more consistent look if you plan to use them together.. I chose all at once because piecing is not my favorite and I wanted it over with.  Here is how I go about it.

First I had cut 14 assorted of each pattern piece.. no plan.  I just stacked random fabrics from the pile five at a time and cut.  You can see the pile of patches on the left. I put up two card tables and laid out 14 squares of card stock.

Then I took a pile of each pattern piece and just randomly put it on a square. Trying not to put two of the same fabric adjacent to each other.

Until I had them all out... Then I stepped back and tweeked a few here and there.  I try to balance out color, value, and patterns at this point...I'm not too fussy.  I had a lot of   patches from paisley ties and I wanted some on each block..  This goes VERY fast because I try to not overthink this at this point...  Any goofs I make at this point can be dealt with when I start embellishing.

The pieces of card stock act like trays and I can just pile them up and head to the sewing machine.

I set a small folding table next to the sewing machine, put a towel and my little travel steam iron on it so I can press each seam as sewn.  And off I go with the pieces already on the paper trays  next to the machine

Within no time I have them 14 done.
Although I pressed seams as I went along, at this point they need a good press and put on a foundation but the piecing is done for the entire year..

These are very rich blocks in this winter pastel palette.  Lots of silk, taffetas, and velvets. Most of the silk patterned patches are from a day we hit a thrift store with an overstock of ties that were only 49 cents a piece.

And what's a perfect day...?.  A cold wintry day with a fire, a white chocolate mocha and a dear friend to stitch with....

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tips on picking a paper piecing pattern

In the previous post I mentioned that for my CQJP2015 project I had chosen Sharon Boggin's Block 28 from the "I dropped the button box quilt".   All these block patterns can be found here   They are a fabulous resource and Sharon is so generous to make them available..    She has by far been the biggest influence on my crazy quilting and I can never say enough kind words about her.
I received a comment this morning from a newby that she was overwhelmed by the number of patterns available and thought she just might pick a number at random... NO NO NO... There are things to consider. First I chose number 28 because it has more patches than I usually do.... (because I have so many fabrics for this project).  It is also a very balanced block with the patches at random to each other..

If it were my first block I might chose one with fewer patches.  This block is also well balanced with a random layout.   In fact this is very similar to the one I used for my Morris block. For that  I had very wild graphic fabrics and lots of images so I chose a simpler block  ...

But there are other factors also... and many times it is just a personal preference.  I mentioned I liked the patches in a random pattern so I would not pick this block with all the patches in a row.... 

There are two things I always avoid  and that are patterns that will end up with small awkward corner patches... like patch #8 here..  If I were to use this pattern I would make that patch larger to begin with.  In fact I just worked on a block in a recent RR that had 3 tiny difficult corner patches.  I think I blogged about it..   So just be sure to look at all patches when considering a pattern....

The second  thing to be aware of is where seams intersect.  I try to avoid blocks where several seams come together like where pieces 4 & 5 meet at piece 6.  Depending on your fabrics and your skill level, this could be problematic.

Here your have seam 5 & 4 coming to piece 7 dangerously close to where you are also most likely have a seam allowance.  Multiple converging seams often have bulk that is hard to conceal and stitch through...  Keep an eye out for them.

This is a great block but I would divide both pieces 5 and 6 into two sections to make it more balanced... Keep in mind that you can always do that to any of the patches if you think ahead.

My second choice when I was choosing for this project was # 52 except I would divide piece 6 into two pieces...  I have printed it to use in the future...

Janet Stauffacher also  posts crazy quilt patterns.  Her blocks have allowed for an image.  She has a Free Crazy Quilt Block Patterns board at Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/j…/free-crazy-quilt-block-patterns/  Be sure to check hers also..

I did this post for Mary Ann, but  if you think you are going to be a paper piecer like me, this post is for you also...

p.s.  I actually have seen IN PERSON the "I dropped the button box" quilt and have endless photos of it...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Challenge Yourself - Post #3

If doing a block a month in the CQJP2017 sounds daunting, keep in mind that the only person you can disappoint is yourself and I'm sure that will be because you are requiring too much of yourself. Many people start and can't finish for some reason, some take more than a year, and some finish and never do anything with the blocks.  But anything you do is a step in the right direction...

If the block a month is too much for this year, make one  10-12" block and do a little bit on it each month.. Then you will end up with a sampler Challenge block like my purple one.  How many times have you looked at a CQ and admired something on it and mean to try it but never do... Here would be your chance...  That's what nice about Pinterest is that you can pull up   bunches of CQ work and find ideas in minutes.  The hard part will be limiting the list.

And I do say list... you must keep photos or a list of these goals or they slip away.  As I start piecing my blocks I am starting my list...  One of the things that will be at the top of the list is to use all specialty threads and ribbons I never bought and never use.  When I saw this piece by Anne Nicolas-Whitney my eye immediately zeroed in on the flowers upper right using organza ribbon.  I have LOTS of it I acquired in a lot purchase from e-bay and always searching for ways to use it... This will be on my list.  But just look some more at this block and I am willing to bet you can instantly see many things you could put on your list to try.  Her work is extraordinary.  And did you see the clever use of French knots and rick rack at the bottom...

My students are focusing on exploring rick rack techniques this winter and I compiled this little worksheet for them  I'm hoping this will inspire them to use some of these and find more of their own..

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

OOYCZ---challenge post #2

Several years ago I participated in a challenge on a yahoo group -CQForNewbies.  It was absolutely one of the best things I ever did to stretch my skills....  It was called "Out of Your Comfort Zone" or OOYCZ....  Up until that time this was my comfort zone and everything (an I mean everything) I did was pastel, lace, and flowers.  We had to do two pieces... one in our comfort zone (which is this one) and one out of our comfort.  My second piece was jewel tones.

Ever since then whenever I start a new project, I often make it a point to try completely different color palettes.

The black and white was the Morris CQJP, the browns were the suffrage quilt and the crisp white and blue is the hanky project from last spring.

The hot jewel tones were the vest I did for Houston and it is VERY far out of my comfort zone and I almost changed colors well into the piecing and truly thought "I will never wear this!"  But now I love it and decided I want to be buried wearing it..

When I did CQJP cottages I slipped back into my comfort zone.  I do this every so often..
In fact the upcoming CQJP  the colors are quite close to my comfort zone and all the rest of it will be"comfort zone all the way"

TAKE SMALL STEPS when widening your color range.  But if you are going to try a different palette don't start with colors you hate or that make you uncomfortable.  If you do you probably won't even finish it...  This is exactly the case with this block... Turquoise one of my least favorite colors.  I did not even have a single piece of turquoise in my stash.  I had to beg turquoise scraps from Nikki...  Every so often I do a bit more on this block but I know it is dragging because of the color.

I am slowly working up to orange...I always put in my RR booklets "No Orange".  But I am slowly gathering a large bag of orange scraps and trims.  I want to use this marvelous photo which my granddaughter Madi took in Morocco.

This block will be my ultimate color challenge but I'm not there yet.  I will be forever grateful for participating in the OOYCZ challenge.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Are you up to a challenge?

I think combining specific personal challenges with the CQJP is a great opportunity... I've belonged to Crazy Quilting  International for a long time and have participated in many of their activities, but BY FAR my favorite was the couple years they did the challenge list for a block...  It involved doing a one 11" block over a year's time.    A list of things was posted and it was up to the individual to include as many as they wanted....this was a challenge for personal growth and not a competition in any way...  Here was my challenge block for 2009...

Things I chose from the 2009 list that were either a new skill or something I needed to improve.  You can find them all...The list included using: pansies, paisleys, hankies, butterflies, fancy beaded seams, lettering, embellished rick rack and painting on fabric.  I chose them all since I had a whole year to do it but many only chose 3-4.  So you not only got to challenge yourself, you got to see what others did with the same list.    I was  just blown away by all the gorgeous paisleys.

I was really disappointed and distressed when the format of the challenge block concept changed.... Rather than being skilled focused it was more about adding bizarre embellishment.  I dropped out then but have always continued to have at least three personal  challenges I want to focus on for every project I start.. usually skills I need to improve or using something interesting I've seen on another block...

Haven't made a final decision but on my early list for CQJP is silk fabric flowers, surface embellishment, maybe woven or folded ribbon work, and ALWAYS elaborate seam work.  Sometimes I choose a tool or thread to try.  Years ago I bought a punch needle I've never used and another possibility is to use some of the novelty threads that are accumulating and multiplying in a drawer unused...especially Kreinik metallic ribbon. I'm still thinking on it...

So if you are participating in CQJP or even if you're not, give some thought to choosing at least three things you'd like to focus on and improve in the upcoming year...  If you think of some you'd like to use, leave a comment...maybe it will be something someone else would like to do and hasn't thought of it.....  I will try to provide some examples and ideas for you as the year goes on.