Tag Archives: abstract quilt

Experimental quilting- work in progress

Noelle Olpin

An experiment in every way.

I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head and in my dreams for a while now. With a bit of stolen time each day, I started dyeing fabric with coffee and tea, cutting without a straight edge, stitching blocks and washing fabrics and then arranging blocks.

Noelle Olpin

Then, making up the design and mapping all the blocks together.

No Rules Quilting, as I’ve come to think of it, is harder than you might think. It’s experimental quilting and you can’t do anything wrong, ever. Which is a relief and also a burden.

When there isn’t any one telling you what to do, no rules or steps to follow, the process can be exhausting. A constant mental battle on what you’ve been taught and know to be accepted (no exposed edges or uncut thread ends) within in the quilting/sewing communities and the beauty of irregularity, imperfection and what some might think of as a big mess.

Noelle Olpin

I like the result so much, I’m willing to toss all the rules aside and see what shakes down.

noelle olpin

At this point, the project slows down. The piecing work has been done on a sewing machine so far. I have plans for slow stitching- hand stitching the finish work. I love the look of Kantha quilting, so a lot of that look will be involved.

Noelle Olpin Noelle Olpin Noelle OlpinI’ve been attempting to let the ideas flow for finishing the edges on this experimental quilt. The project isn’t very big, a wall hanging size in fact (22″ x24″).

Perhaps a traditional binding, maybe not? A frame with the quilt stretched across the inside like an animal skin? Hung from a stick with loops? Stapled to the wall?  We shall see…

Now, I carry this project with me wherever I go. Because the beauty of hand stitching is that you can do it anywhere and everywhere. And that’s what audiobooks are for…

Have a wonderful day!

 

American flag quilt

American Flag quilt by Noelle Olpin

American Flag Quilt by Noelle Olpin, 36″ x 31″

I made this pattern up myself, I’ve had the idea of an American Flag quilt tucked away in a corner of my brain for awhile. A few elements that influenced it’s making: First of all, I dislike throwing any scrap of fabric- no matter the size or shape, so I had plenty of scrap fabric ready to go. Second, I admire the quilters of Gee’s Bend (this is an extreme understatement). And lastly, my love for flags has been growing throughout the years as I’ve traveled, participated in humanitarian work in Nepal and Cambodia and sent my kids on foreign exchanges and adventures of their own.

All kinds of flags have caught my eye- country flags, nautical flags, Native American Indian tribe flags– all intriguing and beautiful in their representation of solidarity and national pride. And the useful (sneaky to land lubbers) messaging aspect of nautical signal flags in the coolest. Through these aligned preferences and concepts, this quilt was born.
american flag quilt1I started by collecting up all of the tiny scraps of red, white and blue fabric I could possibly find, and began randomly sewing them together.

american flag quilt, making the stripesAs I pieced things together, I tried to roughly create the shapes I needed- long narrow strips for the red and white sections, then blocky blue and white strips for the star section.
making an american flag quiltAfter continuing to piece together reds and whites into long skinny pieces, I starting sewing them together. My goal was obvious imperfection and wavy lines- which is a lot harder than you would think. I put the rotary cutter away and cut everything with scissors… in my lap and not on a flat table.
stars on the flagI made the ‘stars’ section in strips of white and blue squares.  A tiny bit of basic math went into this part because I was striving for 50 white pieces or stars in there. I tried to make the blue and white sections about 1-2″ squares. Nine rows of 5 or 6 white chunks, semi-lined up and sewn together with blue strips in between.
making the stars for flag quiltI found this actual star fabric while searching through my collection of blue fabric scraps and decided to incorporate it, a strong mental suggestion for those who aren’t compelled by abstract patterns.

american flag quilt, abstract starsLooking at the back… very messy and in my opinion it’s intriguing to see the process and framework. As you can see, I still did plenty of ironing throughout the process.
building the quilt stars back
building the quilt starsIf you look closely, you can see that some of the selvages (unfinished fabric edges) have been left exposed on the quilt top and sewn with visible top stitching. I want the exposed edges to be visible and the slightly frayed aspect to add texture and imperfection of the finished quilt.
stars and stripes quiltIn laying out the three pieces, I found that the blue and white section was too small and needed more white stars too. So I pieced and added another small blue and white section.
american flag quilt, making the starsHere’s the added-to blue section (the part to the farthest right)- finally making the entire section the right size.

american flag quiltHere are all three pieces ready to be trimmed and sewn into one.
stars and stripes

stars and stripes quilt

And, of course,  a view of the backside.

flag quiltAnother look at the back as the pieces come together.

abstract american flagHere’s a backlit look at the finished pieced flag quilt top, showing off all of the tiny pieces that combine to make up the color portions.
american flag quilt topI love looking at the light coming through the fabric, before the batting and the back fabric get put on.
american flag quiltNow, I’ve got to decide how to quilt the top. I’m picturing simple, but hand stitched… This is going to take some time, but the end result with be worth it with a very organic, homemade and home grown feel.
red and white top stitchingI did a bit of machine top stitching to hold layers in place, then finished up with an easy running stitch with embroidery floss and pearl cotton thread in coordinating colors. Mostly straight, uneven stitching with an occasional swirl built in for some fun and curvy lines.
am flag top stitch
american flag details
topstitching on american flagI added an occasional embroidered star over the white star blocks with a couching or double running stitch.
flag quilt signature

With a final embroidered signature in the corner on the back, the American flag quilt is finished.
back of flag quilt

Here’s a view of the full back side. I always sew a sleeve for hanging at the top of all of my quilts. A flat, thin piece of wood (or metal, I’m using a yardstick in this picture) cut to the just under the width of the quilt helps the quilt hang straight across the top and keeps the quilt from eventually sagging in the middle like fabric is inclined to do.

Note: A hole is drilled into each side of the pole or stick, close to the ends. Then the holes are placed over nails in the wall to hang it up.

back of quilt

an experiment in abstract quilting

mountain quilt 1The Big Rock Candy Mountain quilt is finished- all quilted and bound! As with most projects, the first step is the hardest and that was definitely true in this case. Working without a pattern requires a huge mental effort and so I must admit I walked away from this project for months at a time because I was having a hard time seeing the big, final picture. But all the hard work in abstract quilting was so extremely rewarding, and now, I think I’m hooked.
mountain quilt backFabric with assorted keys on the back, a panel from Urban Outfitters I found a few years back.
big rock candy mt quiltThe quilting was done by Corn Wagon Quilt Company in Springville UT. They have done custom work (freehand by the human operator, not a computer programmed stitch) for me before so I trusted they would do a good job again. I was very undecided on how to quilt this project. I went back and forth on various ideas, asking everyone’s opinion and you can see what won out- based on majority rule. I had Van Gogh’s Starry, Starry Night pictured in my minds eye when I saw the background. I had pictured swirls bigger than these but I didn’t specify exact size and I think these smaller swirls suit just fine.
big rock candy mountain quiltThere are a few stars in the sky- I had pictured more but I think it works out just fine. Someday I’ll have my own long arm quilting machine and I’ll be free to quilt whatever I can dream up (after hours and months of lessons, practice and messing up I’m sure).
triangle pieced quiltI love the way the straight stitches on the mountain really make the points and geometry stand out. Very simple- in a good way.
backlight quiltBacklit and blowing in the wind, it took me about 5 minutes with the camera poised and ready to get this picture. The wind was making it flap and twist, but I had to get at least one good picture with the mountains in the background and the sunlight coming through the fabric.
keys on the backsideI learned from my mother-in-law to always title, sign and date a quilt. Here is one way- just a corner of muslin or plain white fabric in the back corner, hand stitched on, for the important details. This location works well because you can easily flip the bottom corner over for the details without taking the quilt down off the wall. (And I’d better not forget to sign it…)
hanging a quiltIf the quilt is meant to hang on the wall, include a sleeve at the top when stitching the binding on. About 2 or 3 inches wide across the top should suffice. This picture is actually a great bad example of what to use when hanging the quilt. I’ve got a very bendy piece of wood that is twisting and turning (as you can see) and not allowing the quilt to hang nicely flat against the wall. Chose a strong, flat and thin piece of wood for hanging and there will be minimal to no sag over the years.
quilting from the backA view of how the quilting stitching looks against the keys on the back.
folded quilt
mountain quilt with timpOne last look, with my neighboring mountains before this quilt goes off to it’s new home. it’s going to artist Colt Bowden and growing family. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye. (I might have to make another one for me).

For a look at this quilt in the piecing triangles process look here.