Friday, July 31, 2009

Organized Chaos Grid and System

Below is my Organized Chaos grid. It is 8 by 8 squares, with 5 colors: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue. I use the grid to create plans (maps) for scrappy quilts.

Let's say I want to make a double four-patch quilt, like the sketch below, and I want to make the quilt white (white areas) and blue (gray areas).

I make a blank sketch of the quilt.

Following the grid, I color in the light areas of the quilt sketch, one color per block. The light areas represent white for this project. I use Electric Quilt, but graph paper and colored pencils work just as well. By the way, the bottom row is #9, so I repeated row #1. You can extend this way anytime you have more than 8 squares.

Next I color in the dark areas of the quilt, following the grid again. The dark areas represent blue for this project. I call the finished coloring my map. This is a simple coloring. We'll get more complicated later.

You'll need at least 10 fabrics: 5 white and 5 blue for this project, but you're certainly not limited to a two-color palette. You can use as many fabrics as you like. Create five areas or zones named for the grid colors: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue. Label the zones with a piece of paper or you can use pink, orange, yellow, green and blue fabrics, towels, scrapbook paper or whatever you have on hand.

Take your blues and whites and distribute each color fairly evenly among the five color zones. How you divide them is completely up to you. The blues and whites will share the same zone (fat quarter/towel/scrapbook paper). If you have several pieces of the same fabric, keep them all in one zone. Don't split them up. This will prevent two identical fabrics ending up side by side.

When you have your fabrics divided into zones, you can start sewing. Let's start at the top left of the colored map. You need a light green and dark green, so go to the green zone and choose a white and a blue, and make a four-patch. You can place the block on your design wall if you like. Next you need a light orange, so go to the orange zone and choose a white. Cut a plain block and place it on the design wall. And so on.

In reality, I usually count the number of light green/dark green four-patches on my colored map, make them all at once, then place them on the design wall. It's faster to sew several at the same time.

When you've finished, you'll have something like below, which uses just five whites and five blues.

That was a pretty simple coloring. Let's get more complicated now. Start with your blank sketch and color in the light areas like before. Here's where it's different. Before you color in the darks, turn the grid 90 degrees to the right or left. It doesn't matter. I turned mine to the right. Now color in the dark areas according to the new grid orientation. You'll end up with something like this:

Starting at the upper left, you'll need a white from the green zone and a blue from the orange zone to make the first four-patch. Using a complex coloring like this one, you will end up with a greater variety of fabric combinations. The end result will look something like:

The grid can be adapted to blocks that have more than two fabrics. Just turn the grid 90 degrees to color the next block element. I use light and dark for a two-element sketch. You may need to invent ways to designate the extra elements in your coloring, such as hash marks or polka dots. Do what you've got to do to keep things straight.

I hope you try my system. I'd love to hear how it worked for you, and I'd love to see your color map and finished quilt. If you have questions, please Email me. 

To see recent projects using Organized Chaos, click on the link in the labels area below.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tossed Salad

Last night I began working on the design wall. The first thing I did was assess whether I had enough leftover fabric in each color group to make solo triangles, raiding my scraps for workable fabrics to fill any gaps. That done, there were a few color groups where the half square triangle units had two or three combinations of fabrics and I needed to figure out how to distribute them. My usual method has been to try to do it fairly evenly and symmetrically, and I intended to do just that.

Out of the blue I got the idea to just literally toss the units of a color group around like a salad to get them good and mixed up. It was kind of fun! Then I picked up the units in sets of four, not worrying about what order the combos were in. That should really help to achieve more randomness in the final layout.

Next I cut 3.5" squares for the solo triangle areas. My plan is to sew whole squares rather than triangles. As I attach the sailboat fabric, the seam will create triangles out of the squares, and I'll trim away the excess. It works in my head.

Moving forward, I followed my Organized Chaos map, laying out the upper left quadrant of Ocean Waves, seen below.

The units are all four layers deep, enough to make the upper left quadrants of four Ocean Waves blocks--each looking slightly different, thanks to the tossed salad method I used. The diagonal edges are the squares-that-will-become-triangles folded back. The Sailboat theme fabric will fill the large empty triangle areas.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Half Square Triangles Finished

The half square triangles are pressed and the dog ears trimmed. The picture below shows the different sets on colored fabric, as assigned by my Organized Chaos system. In a couple of sets, all the units are identical, while in the others, there are two or three variations. There are no shared fabrics between sets.

Next I will begin laying out the Ocean Waves blocks, following the Organized Chaos map (shown in an earlier post). If all works well, the blocks should be scrappy with no two identical units adjacent to each other.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Half Square Triangles Sewn

A couple of days ago I started working in earnest on Joann Sets Sail. I took my collection of reds and creams and arranged each color group from dark to light. I needed five sets of red/cream combinations, each to yield an average of 32 half square triangles finishing at 3". Most of my fabrics were fat quarters, which were large enough to produce what was needed.

I began pairing fabrics together, the darkest red with the darkest cream, next darkest red and cream together, and so on. I decided that the darkest cream--an almost medium yellow-orange with brown polka dots--was going to be too much, so I opted to substitute in another lighter print for half of that set. I felt that was a win-win solution as the substituted fabric was a theme print, which I didn't want too much of, either. I took the remaining fabrics and fiddled with those until I had a collection I liked. (I wish I'd taken pictures.) I'm using mostly darker reds to go with the burgundy in the theme fabric, and I set the red-reds aside.

I used my Quiltime Triangle Paper to sew the 3" finished half square triangles. This paper makes fast work of sewing those pesky HSTs, and I need a lot of them for this project.

The first four sets went together pretty easily. The last set called for 36 half square triangles, 4 units more than a fat quarter can provide. I raided my scraps to find more dark reds to complete the set, and to provide solo triangles to complete the Ocean Waves blocks. I'll need more solo triangles, but I don't have much in the way of leftovers from the various fat quarters, so I may have to get into my scraps again. We'll see.

Next I need to cut apart the Triangle Paper, iron the units and trim the dog ears. I'll keep each set together (Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue), which is necessary for my Organized Chaos method. I should start working at the design wall tomorrow.

Fabric: Gotta Have More vs. Contentment

Recently a member of the Stashbuster group asked about our stashes of fabric: If you have more, do you want more? As you bust that stash, do you find that you are happier with what you have?

In the past, I was an avid collector of fabric, buying because I liked a print, with no clue what I would use it for. I even went through a period where I bought fat quarters and half yards of fabric on a color of the month basis. I built quite a nice stash that way.

A few years ago I went through a drastic life change, and my need to budget came into play in a big way. These days I usually buy for specific projects, shortly before I begin to work on them. I try to shop my stash first, but I don't feel guilty about picking up new fabrics to supplement a project. Sometimes I amaze myself that I am able to leave a quilt shop or fabric store empty handed. What a change!

Over the past few years I've pared down my stash significantly by giving away fabric. I moved from a big three-bedroom house to a small condo, and I don't have much room for storage. Periodically I'll go through my stash and let go of fabric I don't care for or have grown tired of. I give my castoffs to organizations that make charity quilts. I figure they will take what I don't want and make beautiful quilts for people to love.

People donate fabric to me, as well, bringing in waves of new possibilities. While some of the donated fabric goes into my regular stash, much of it is set aside to make quilts for my favorite charity.

With my existing stash, donated fabrics included, I think it will be a few years before I'll feel that my fabric inventory is inadequate. I guess at this point I lean more to the contentment side of the scale. For now, anyway, I have plenty of fabric, and I don't crave for more.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Organized Chaos...Achieving Scrappy Without Tears

As a perfectionist, I have trouble with scrappiness. I have difficulty deciding how to distribute pieces for the best balance, and I don't like two identical fabrics to be right next to each other. (Diagonal doesn't bother me.) I could play with the fabric pieces on the design wall till next year and drive myself bananas, never knowing when to quit. To help myself move along, many years ago I developed a five-color grid that I call Organized Chaos. The grid is 8x8 squares, with no two colors adjacent to each other. I have used it countless times for my scrappy designs.

Once I have my quilt sketched in EQ6, I use the Organized Chaos grid to re-color the blocks, transferring the bright grid colors to the quilt sketch. I use shadings of the bright colors to correspond to lights/mediums/darks of the blocks, as well. This results in a very colorful map to follow, as seen below.

One Ocean Waves block
Four of these are needed for the quilt

I divide the fabrics into five relatively even groups, each group named for the bright grid colors.: Pink, Orange, Yellow, Blue and Green. For Ocean Waves, each group will have at least one cream fabric and one red fabric. The groups do not share the same fabrics. So the Pink group will have red #1 and cream #1, the Orange group will have red #2 and cream #2, etc. Then I just follow the map and draw from the groups to create the block units. A dark pink/light pink half square triangle would be made up of red #1 and cream #1. A dark orange/light orange unit would be made up of red #2 and cream #2...and so on. By following the map, I get a scrappy look with no two identical fabrics adjacent to each other.

This coloring is pretty simple. I generally make the coloring much more complex. Usually I'll color the dark areas, then twist the grid 90 degrees to color the light areas...or vice versa. So I'd end up with half square triangle units such as Dark pink/light green, Dark blue/light yellow. By keeping the the coloring simple for this project, I can use my triangle paper more effectively, since I only need a handful of combinations of fabrics, rather than dozens of variations. Even so, with a couple dozen fabrics, Joann Sets Sail will be plenty scrappy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ready to Quilt

I just finished my granddaughter's dress, and I'm ready to start quilting tomorrow. Yippee! Preparation to do for Joann Sets Sail: iron the fabrics, figure out how many half square triangles to make, determine the scrappy distribution of fabrics for the Ocean Wave quadrants. We'll see how much I get done tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Design Coming Together

Last weekend I picked up a few more fabrics for Joann Sets Sail. I've been playing with design options in my head for the past few days. I like a controlled scrappy look, using many variations of just a few colors. My collection of two dozen or so creams and reds certainly reflects that. The tough part has been in deciding how to handle the scrappiness.

For some time I have considered varying the creams and reds rather willy nilly style, for maximum scrappiness. Then today I had the idea of using one light and one red per section of the Ocean Waves blocks, as illustrated below. By the way, the little print represents the sailboat theme fabric.

It's nice, but a little too tame for me. I went back to my willy nilly idea, but wanted to find a way to make things simpler for myself organizationally and production-wise. My current idea is to create four different sets of scrappy sections, each with its own identical scrappy layout, four per set for a total of 16 sections. I think this will work well for the triangle paper I'll use for the half square triangles. I'm thinking of making some wild cards, to throw things off a little in each section, and take away some of the predictability.

So what you see above is kind of the plan as things stand now. Also, the red is shown as all the same fabric, but it will be just as scrappy as the cream. It feels good. I plan to sew this one in a traditional fashion, unlike the wonky style of Scrappy Stars.

My fabrics are washed, but I can't start sewing just yet. I've got a dress cut out for my granddaughter that really needs to be sewn. When I finish, I'll be able to get going on this quilt.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sailboat Quilt

I'm beginning a new project, Joann Sets Sail, for my friend Joann who enjoys sailing. My quilt design uses Ocean Waves quilt blocks, and the large triangles will be filled with the sailboat themed fabric above. I shopped my stash and found some reds and creams that will work. Then yesterday I bought additional fabric at Beverly's, as well as Cloth and Quilts in Turlock, to create the somewhat scrappy look I'm trying to achieve.

I'm getting a good headstart on this one, since Joann's birthday is in December. Finding this cute fabric has me motivated.

Friday, July 03, 2009

San Francisco

Last Sunday I went to San Francisco, which is a little less than two hours away from my home. My main reason for the trip was an evening concert in the Union Square area. Also on my itinerary were the Ferry Building (my first visit) and possibly Pier 39.

I drove an hour to Dublin/Pleasanton BART. I bought a ticket for $12.00 to cover 3 planned BART rides for the day. I sat alone most of the 45-minute trip, scooting over to leave room for another passenger as the car filled. A man got on in Oakland and sat next to me. I asked him where he was headed today. He said he was going to the Gay Pride Parade. I said I had heard about those. I told him I was going to the Ferry Building. Just a couple of stops later the train arrived at Embarcadero, the man and I wished each other a good day, and I got off.

The Ferry Building

When I got above ground, I could see the Ferry Building plain as day, just a few blocks away at the end of Market Street. I sure didn't need the F Line streetcar to get me there. With the Gay Pride Parades this weekend the streetcar was not running on Market, anyway. Piece of cake!

About a block from the Ferry Building was a group of tents with vendors selling their wares. I didn't stop to look. Once in the building, I strolled the halls. It turned out the place was kind of a mini-mall with lots of little food stores, restaurants and a bit of retail.
Sur La Table

I spied Sur La Table, a cooking store. I couldn't recall if I'd been in one before, but I'd heard about it a lot on PBS cooking shows. The store was filled with beautiful things for the kitchen. My daughter-in-law Laurie, a wonderful cook, would love this place! I text messaged her, letting her know I was there, asking if she needed anything. I've been looking for a bag to carry my lunch in to replace the plastic grocery sacks I usually use. I bought a ChicoBag, reusable and washable, made of umbrella fabric, about the same size as a grocery sack. It wads up and tucks into its own little fist-sized bag, which is attached to the inside. Very nice! My pretty peacock blue lunch sack was $6, a steal for a fancy store in San Francisco. It had been a while since I text messaged my daughter-in-law but I hadn't heard back, so I left the store. I could go back if I needed to.

I checked out the rest of the stores, then went outside in search of the outdoor barbecue place I'd seen on Food Network. The pictures below are from the bay side of the Ferry Building, where commuters catch the ferries to other cities around the Bay.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
San Francisco Bay

On the bay side of the building were several restaurants, some with open-air dining. There was a book store, as well. I never did find the barbecue place. Darn it!


I went back inside to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I checked out Miette, a bakery, which I was sure I'd seen on Food Network. I chose a bag of lemon shortbread cookies. I looked at the chocolates for my daughter-in-law, but passed on them due to the very warm weather. They wouldn't have survived the trip, I'm afraid. Sorry, Laurie. As I paid, I told the cashier that I'd seen them on Food Network. She said they'd been on Cupcake Challenge. (I'd seen the show, but I don't think they won.)

It was time to get some dinner, so I headed back toward BART to catch a ride to Powell Street station, a couple of stops up. On the way, I checked my phone. I had a text message from my daughter-in-law about what she needed from Sur La Table: "Two of everything! I love that store!" I laughed. I stopped along the way to look at the tent vendors, who sold art, jewelry and such. I saw an art piece that I liked, but didn't buy it. I didn't have the money, and it would have been difficult to carry around.

As I walked the couple of blocks, I realized how much I missed being in San Francisco. It had been a couple of years since I'd been here. I've been through it on BART several times on the way to Pacifica, but it's all underground and you don't see anything while you're there. I love the big city. I love the hustle and bustle. I don't mind all the people, even the crazies and the homeless. I love the noise of the car horns, the buses, and the sirens bouncing against the skyscrapers. I love it all! Why did I wait so long to come here?

Back on BART, I was aware of how fast the train moved while I tried to gauge how far we traveled. I was so glad I'd chosen to ride rather than walk. I was at Powell in a couple of minutes rather than maybe half an hour. Once off the train, I headed for the food court of Westfield Mall, which connects to BART. I checked out the various restaurants, and was disappointed to find that Asquew Grill was no longer there. I considered a crepe place, but chose Buckhorn Grill, where I ordered a tri-tip plate. It was really good, but the food court was quite noisy. I kind of wished I'd eaten someplace quieter. Oh, well...

It was time to head for the concert at Hotel Nikko. I walked a block on Market Street and crossed to Mason. According to my map the hotel was just a couple of blocks up. The street was pretty quiet, not many pedestrians. I saw several homeless people along the way. Normally they don't bother me, but I was a bit uneasy and I decided I didn't want to go back along the same route after the concert, especially in the dark. I knew Powell Street was just a block over, and I knew it was busy till late at night.

I found Hotel Nikko at Ellis Street and took the elevator, which didn't tell me which floor the Rrazz room was on. So I chose the floor for check-in, which happened to be the same floor as the concert room. I looked for a restroom to change my shoes from tennies to dressy, to comply with the upscale casual dress code. Up till now I had my dressy shoes in a telephone book bag, all tucked into my big purse (which my daughter-in-law calls my Mary Poppins purse). I had planned ahead and wore black pants and a pretty t-shirt, so I was good to go. And get this...I put my tennies into the telephone bag, then into my new ChicoBag. The tennies wouldn't have fit in my purse, and the ChicoBag would be much more acceptable than a telephone book bag. Always thinking.

I went to get in line to be seated for the concert by Spanish guitarist Ottmar Liebert. I stood there for a couple of minutes by myself while the maitre d' seated another couple. He came out and said You're not Debra, are you? Astonished, I said yes. We walked into the room, a small nightclub setting with 156 seats. I told him I didn't expect to get a table by myself. He said I wouldn't get a table by myself, but he'd put me in a neighborhood with some nice people. He seated me at an L-shaped table for six, and introduced me to the four people already there. He also named several other people in the room.

While we waited for the show to start, I got to talk to my tablemates a little. There was a couple from Oregon, who did most of the talking and a younger man next to them who was pretty quiet. The chair on my left wasn't filled yet, and the older man on my right barely talked the whole evening. I tried several times to engage him in conversation, but he was either very shy or just didn't want to talk, so I didn't push. Eventually the sixth table guest joined us, a young man from San Jose. He was the most interesting of the group, able to talk to all of us (except my silent neighbor) and I enjoyed listening to him. He seemed to be savvy about music, art and antiques, and knew something abouts quilts, as well.

All the while, the maitre d' would bring in new guests, introducing about half the room each time. Apparently he guessed many people's names out of a hat. I figured he guessed my name because I came in as a single woman, but there were several of us, and he guessed several single men, as well. He even guessed groups of people. How did he do it? He was amazing, a show within a show. The lady at our table asked him what his name was. Dartagnan. The lady wondered what kind of a name that was. Her husband and I said it was from The Three Musketeers. The lady thought it might be made up. Why would he make up a name? Maybe his mother loved literature.

The concert began, Ottmar Liebert playing solo guitar, which surprised me a little. His recordings seem to have other musicians with him. He made his own percussion by thumping on the guitar and he was enough on his own. Although I have several of his songs on my Ipod, I didn't recognize many of the tunes he played, which he said were from various albums. I could see only his right hand, as his left hand was blocked by a couple of heads. I never did get to see the left hand, which was a bummer. But the music was beautiful. There's something about Spanish guitar that strikes a chord with me, so to speak.

As Ottmar played, a photo slideshow displayed on twin screens on the wall. I wondered if the photos were of Spain. The first several dozen photos featured bright yellow in each one. As it turns out, all of the photos were taken by Ottmar himself. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which could explain the Spanish look. Other photos were from other parts of the United States and the world, and even included backstage photos from concerts. The color theme changed throughout the slideshow to red, blue and other colors. I mentioned it to the arts guy next to me, but surprisingly he hadn't picked up on it.

During a couple of breaks, Ottmar talked a bit and answered questions. He is from Germany, but has a heritage of Hungarian and Chinese, too. He started as an art major, but the fumes from the darkroom made him sick, so he changed to music, having played guitar since he was a young boy. In Germany, students could take one-hour group guitar lessons for just $20 per semester. Ottmar said his teacher must have seen something in him, because he would teach the group for half an hour, then send the students away while he spent the last half hour giving Ottmar a private lesson.

The concert came to an end. I asked the quiet guy next to me if he had far to go home. He said yes, by airplane. That statement kind of confirmed the hunch I had that he was there on business, that the concert was a way to kill time and he that wasn't necessarily an Ottmar Liebert fan. I didn't ask for any more details. As he got up to go, he said Take care. I said You, too. I gathered up my belongings, and asked the other quiet guy if he had far to go. He said Yes, South San Jose. I said bye and headed out of the room. Ottmar Liebert was selling CDs in the foyer, with Dartagnan assisting. I said Thank you, Dartagnan. I'm sure I'll be back. I stopped at the restroom, then headed out to the street.

I took a side street to cut over to Powell Street, where there would be a lot of foot traffic and would be safer for a woman alone. The sun hadn't gone down yet, and I decided it was too early to go home. At Powell, I headed up the street (and I do mean up) to Borders books. I arrived a couple of blocks later, headed to the crafts area and pulled an assortment of quilting books. I made my way to the cafe, ordered the equivalent of a Starbucks caramel frappucino, then sat down at a table to read my books.

About an hour later I left the store without taking any books home. I headed down the hill to Powell Street BART where I got on for the ride back to Dublin/Pleasanton station. The car was kind of crowded and I sat next to a man who was sleeping. As we got close to the end of the line I wondered how far he was going. I hoped he was listening to the driver calling out the stops. If necessary, I'd wake him up at Pleasanton. A few minutes later he sat up and looked around. I asked him where he was getting off. He said Castro Valley. Is that next? I asked. He said yes. Since I was sitting on the aisle, I said I'd move to another seat. As he walked away he said Good night.

A few minutes later the train arrived at Dublin/Pleasanton, end of the line. An hour drive home, I got back around midnight. It was late, but I had Monday off.

I love San Francisco. I've got to go again soon.