Sunday, April 26, 2009

Celtic knot, tribal bear paw . . .

There are a number of things I learned while making this, on a number of levels:
  1. Design. Overall, I like the design (opposable thumb notwithstanding). I like the use of "pieces" to give the impression of the weavings of a celtic knot; had I done this with bias tape, I think the "weaving" would have been lost (besides, these "pieces" are 1.5 inches wide--I don't think I would care to deal with bias tape that wide). The viewer needs to invest a little something, too; their eyes will roll around as they "connect-the-dots," following the lines of the knots (let's hope they don't get dizzy). For the next version of this design, the toes will be more forward-facing; the second and fourth toes will be oddly-shaped, to fill in what is currently empty space.
  2. Marking. I used a heavy-duty fusible web to attach the pieces to the background material. I traced the shapes of the pieces on the web's paper backing; I fused the web (and paper backing) to the back of my fabric; then I cut out the shapes before peeling off the paper backing. Unfortunately, this means all my pieces were reversed. The alternative would be to trace through the wrong side of the fusible web, but unless I'm fusing to a light-colored fabric, the tracing cannot be seen. Also, whatever I used to trace with would be fused onto my fabric. Here's an idea: trace the design on the BACK of the design, and then trace the shapes of the pieces from that side.
  3. Materials. The fusible web has limited washing directions (cold water wash, gentle; low dry, gentle; do not dry clean). I was going to stitch around the edges of all the pieces, but the manufacturer does not recommend stitching through it. I will have to use a lighter weight fusible web.
  4. More marking. I need to mark the relative positions of the pieces on the background fabric (perhaps with dressmaker's carbon paper and a wheel). Because my pieces were reversed (see #2, above), I had to lay my drawing facedown on the background fabric, then slide the pieces to be fused between the two layers. It was certainly more trouble than it was worth, and I gave up on it after I fused the innermost knots of the "palm."
  5. Quilting. Besides stitching around the shapes (as decoration and to hold the pieces in place in case the fusible gives way), I intend to outline quilt the open areas (kinda like Hawaiian quilting). This could make the design stand out in relief (though I think I'd be the one more relieved, LOL).

(Day 2 of 31DBBB says, "write a list post." I think this qualifies.)

Celtic knot, tribal bear paw . . .

. . . the "fingers." I was able to shift them to lose the opposable thumb shown in the drawing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Celtic knot, tribal bear paw . . .

Outer "palm" trefoil . . .

Celtic knot, tribal bear paw . . .

The innermost knot of the "palm" . . .

Celtic knot, tribal bear paw . . .

Someone has pointed out to me that bears don't have opposable thumbs (I THOUGHT that looked a bit strange!!) . . .

I'm working outward from the center of the "palm." When I get to the "fingers," I'm gonna shift 'em to make room for the "thumb." In the end, I'll have to redraw the design, though; either increase the size of the "palm," or decrease the size of the "fingers."

A celtic knot, tribal bear paw quilt

Yesterday was a productive day in the office (and, I got some work done, too)!!

I spent time working on the celtic knot design . . . I'm very pleased with the results. I scanned the drawing, and made a .pdf file of it, then cropped it and made a .jpeg file of it. I've emailed a copy to the client, and I'm waiting to hear from him.

In the meantime . . .

I emailed a copy to the local copy shop for an enlargement . . . the widest they could go was 36 inches, which is fine for now. I want to make a sample this weekend. I bought some fusible web, and I've decided to use a variety of fabrics I have on hand.

(31DBBB will have to take a backseat this weekend, I'm afraid . . .)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Elevator Pitch . . .

This may be Day #3 of the "Nacho Grandma's Quilts!!" blog, but it's Day #1 of the "31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge" (31DBBB) from

Today's Task is to write an Elevator Pitch, an overview of my blog that can be delivered in 30 seconds or 100-150 words (the duration of an elevator ride). I thought long about my target audience; about how to stand out; and, about an intriguing question to ask.

Here goes:

What would you do with millions of quilt blocks made from a single set of templates?

Would you keep them, or give them away?

I have a growing collection of 4-patch and 9-patch quilt blocks made from a single set of templates (16,000,000 blocks, and counting). I have more quilt blocks than I could ever use.

So, I am giving them away.

This blog chronicles how these blocks came to be. It discusses the use of symmetry as a design tool, in a simple manner. It documents the creation of some quilts (some using the blocks I'm giving away, some not). It discusses color theory. It shows my construction techniques.

I invite you to join me on this journey.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Celtic knot, tribal bear paw quilt

Some months ago, I chatted with a man who wanted to commission a quilt.

Tye is a tattoo artist and glassblower. Originally, he wanted a quilt featuring Sailor Jerry tattoos, but they are trademarked and I wasn't gonna go there. Then, he asked about Greek keys (or frets) and Celtic knots. I could see the Greek keys as a border around a central Celtic knot medallion.

One night, we happened upon a website of tribal tattoos, and Tye found one he particularly liked.

This presented several problems, the first being what did I know about celtic knots?? I surfed the net, and found several methods of drawing celtic knots: one tedious and labor-intensive; the other more freeform. I found a method of cutting celtic knots from folded paper (like snowflakes). I found a celtic knot typface which allowed me to design knots by typing on the computer keyboard. I believe I'll use the "freeform" hand-drawn method.

The second problem is a matter of construction. Unlike my other quilts, which are patchwork-pieced, this quilt will need to be appliqued. I don't have the time (or patience) to hand-applique, so I intend to use a fusible web to attach the design to the quilt top, and zig-zag stitch the raw edges.

The third problem is a matter of scale. The finished quilt will be king-size (10 feet square). I will need to enlarge the drawing, and use it as my template.

Speaking of drawing, the picture of the tattoo could not be copied from the site, so I taped a piece of paper to my monitor and traced the outline of the tattoo (a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem). I want to modify the drawing. My research shows a bear paw has five toes, not four.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Start . . .

Here begins the online journal of Raymond K. Houston (aka Nacho Grandma's Quilts!!) . . .

I am a middle-age African-American male quilter. As a quilter, I'm largely self-taught (but, weighing over 200 lbs., I'm "largely," period).

I recently wrote the following artist's statement:

My quilts are firmly grounded in the traditions of patchwork quilting, though they are far from "traditional." My quilts are artistic, without being "artsy." My quilts explore repeated patterns, in the style of M.C. Escher. My quilts use a bold color palette, partly due to personal preference, partly due to emphasize that these are "not your grandma's quilts!!"

I intend to use this blog in connection with my website:

  • to show "works-in-progress";

  • to explore the operations of symmetry as a design tool;

  • to explore what lies beyond symmetry;

  • to discuss color theory, as it applies to my quilts;

  • to demonstrate my various construction techniques.