Work in Progress: the $1K Quilt

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This is a TEST of the One Thousand Dollar Quilt, conceived as a more affordable version of my handmade Ten Thousand Dollar Quilt.

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This is a test, it is only a test. We stitched out two versions to see how the quilt plotter would handle it, how the thread density would look, etc. There’s well over half a million stitches here, and it took the plotter about a day to stitch. Then I spent half a day cutting, sewing, and ironing binding, and binding it.

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Rae Spooner of Bent Bean Chocolates (Urbana, IL) enjoys the cozy warmth of One Thousand Dollars.

It’s about 8 feet long. The front is high thread count unbleached cotton muslin, the back is regular thread count same. The batting is a mystery – either polyester or poly-cotton, not sure because it’s left over from another project Theo bought it for, and he doesn’t remember. The quilt is remarkably soft and flexible given all the dense stitching

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Unlike the Ten Thousand Dollar Quilt, which uses reverse applique, this gets its color solely from the thread. The result is lower contrast, but I like all the stitch lines. Also there’s no way I could do a reverse applique version for under a thousand dollars.

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The bright green thread is 30-weight, thicker than the 40-weight dark green and white. What a nice solid effect it gives.

The thread is polyester: the dark green and white are 40 weight, and the lighter green is 30 weight, which is significantly thicker. We may do another test using 30 weight dark green. Heavy thread works beautifully, but it’s very expensive. Then again for a Thousand Dollars we can use expensive thread.

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Registration is off as expected, but could be worse. He have a strategy for improving registration in the next test.

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Medallion background fill will be crosshatched in the next iteration.

The portrait medallion fill will be crosshatched in the next version. I didn’t like these curved shading lines at all, because the machine double-stitched some of them which ruined the gradient effect. The next version will also have fill lines on Cleveland’s face, along with a larger border with more of the swirly fill.

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The back. We had a few thread nests but overall it’s pretty clean.

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Rae helps me hold up the 8-foot comfy currency. Photo by anonymous friendly woman who was trying to buy chocolate at Rae’s shop.

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Quilt Plotter action shot

A great “machine’s-eye-view” of our quilt plotter is at the one-minute mark of this Apple promo video. In addition to creating the Mathematica user interface and co-founding Touch Press, Theo is Science Officer of our own PaleGray Labs.

The Quilt Vault

The PaleGray Labs office/workshop/studio is in a former bank building, which is why our suite contains a vault.

Entering the Quilt Vault

Entering the Quilt Vault

When I bought a new mattress I stored the previous one in the office vault before it found a new home. I quickly realized the vault could be its new home, and the home of my art quilts, freshly returned from Sleepy Creek Vineyards. And so the Quilt Vault was born.

My former mattress now lives in the Quilt Vault

QuiltVault$10Kceiling

Shedu&$10K

IlGatto&friends

Two Goddesses

QuiltVault Laxmi ceiling

FireEarthLaxmi

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Even though Theo’s kids call the Quilt Vault a “sex dungeon,” having a real bed on site is practical for a quilt studio. I’m currently designing minimalist quilt tops using the 44″ wide bolts of colored fabric I bought last year, to have more colorful bases for complex stitch patterns. The bed provided instant visual feedback as I pieced this together:

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Of course it is also excellent for naps.

Fibonacci Sequins and other news from PaleGray Labs

PaleGray Labs being the textile art collaboration of me and Theodore Gray. First up, we have a photo of Mathematician Ian Stewart holding up PaleGray Labs’ “Fibonacci Sequins” quilt Theo just gave him in London:

Fibonacci Sequins

Fibonacci Sequins

This was designed by me and Theo using a Mathematica tool he created for that purpose, stitched on the new quilt plotter, and bound on my 100-year-old Davis Vertical Feed treadle machine. I hand-sewed on the sequins and beads. This was a test, but we plan to make more of them, including large bed quilts.

What I call the “quilt plotter” is a Quilt Master IV Full Frame Quilting System. Actually the model IV isn’t on their web site yet – we’re early adopters! – but you get the idea.

quilt plotter 2

Below are some initial experiments with the quilt plotter. We’re still getting the hang of this thing, and working out some software issues that will require communicating through a Chinese interpreter some time in February after Chinese New Year vacations are over.

quilt plotter tests

All stitchcoding by Theo using tools he built in Mathematica. Above we have fibonacci spiral fractals, a big guilloche pattern, and a modified dancing Reena Shah cycle from Sita Sings the Blues. All just tests, because the machine ripped the fabric before we learned to let it “cycle” on before moving the head (a problem that could be fixed with improved software, but until we get the ear of the Chinese software company that controls its operating system we just have to be very careful and do a lot of work-arounds).

Davis Vertical FeedHere’s my treadle-operated  Davis Vertical Feed, which I am in love with. It makes binding almost a pleasure, a physical game of skill, a kind of meditation. If it weren’t for the time it takes to cut and iron the binding strips, I could see binding all PaleGray Labs quilts with this. (I’m also experimenting with bias tape and a Suisei binder attachment on my Singer treadle and Featherweight, which have the necessary mounting screw holes but lack the genuine walking foot that quality binding needs). Behind the Davis is the new 20″ long arm zig-zag machine, designed for making sails but which I intend to use for trapplique. It’s a powerful beast but we don’t get along because something’s wrong with its tension. The company is sending me a new tension assembly which will hopefully fix the problem.

PaleGray Labs embroideryThe domain palegraylabs.com currently just reroutes to the “Quilting” category of this blog. Hopefully we (meaning I, helped by Webmaster Ian) will design a nice web site of its own soon.

 

 

Davis Vertical Feed restoration

 

I got this Davis Vertical Feed 2 on eBay for $30 (plus shipping). It arrived full of gunk and rust, barely moving, and smelling of smoke.

 

Getting a bath in the Parts Washer

Submerged in kerosene overnight

Soaked in kerosene and wiped but still full of gunk.

After cleaning what we could with kerosene and brass brushes, we soaked everything the following night in Evapo-Rust.

This morning we retrieved each piece, wiped it off, rinsed in water, wiped, rinsed in acetone, wiped, and revaled beautiful clean shiny parts.

Then we put everything back together, with liberal squirts of sewing machine oil.

Success! Here she is installed in my Minnesota A cabinet. She works great.

Here's the reason I bought and spent 3 days restoring her: the walking foot. I need this "vertical feed" system to sew bindings on quilts. The Minnesota A made too many random pleats and crumples.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival – “Ziz” quiltimation in Art Quilts

Approximately 32″ square. Cotton fabric, cotton/bamboo batting, rayon thread. Machine embroidery, quilting, trapplique.

I’m submitting this in Art Quilts because there’s no “animation” category in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival. 😉 I’m happy to have it in an online show, because you can easily see it animated:

Ziz quiltimation - animated quiltEach block of the quilt is a frame in the animated cycle above. I created the animation, exported as vector images which Theo Gray stitchcoded in Mathematica. Each block was stitched in 2 parts on our embroidery machine: first the Ziz (gryphon) figure, then the background. I cut out and applied the former to the latter and the machine “trappliqued” it down and did the echo pattern. Finally I zigzag stitched the blocks together, topstitched homemade bias tape over the seams, and bound it.

Stitch me closer tiny dancer

embroidered dancerTheo stitched the yesterday’s dancer outline with the background inverted to make a fill.

Embroidermation du jour: twirling dancer

twirling dancer embroidermation

Today’s embroidermation features a rotoscoped dance outtake performed by Reena Shah about 7 years ago for Sita Sings the Blues. Theo coded the stitches and the animated sin wave loop background. This is designed for larger quilts, but this version is tiny as it was stitched on our embroidery machine.

I sewed the 16 panels together like so:

The cycle is actually 13 frames long – an annoying number for animation. The final 3 frames are repeats so it could be a 4 x 4 square. Finished size is 16″ x 16″.

Crazy Sewing Machine Lady

fancy Minnesota A cabinet

I guess it’s happened – I’ve turned into a sewing machine collector. No one needs more than one sewing machine, but I just obtained my fifth. I’ve wanted a treadle machine since I started quilting a few years ago, and when I came across this beauty on Chicago’s Craigslist, I couldn’t resist.

Minnesota A sewing machine

She stitches! Came with one bobbin wound with ancient thread. No belt yet (I ordered one this morning) so I used the hand wheel. I’ve also ordered 2 additional bobbins, and some 100-year-old unused needles on eBay. I threaded the shuttle myself after reading up on it online. It’s a Davis, Long.

There were lots of dropped stitches and thread nests in the back, but as I adjusted the tension disc and whatever the screwpost thing on top is (foot pressure?) it got better. The machine was very well oiled before it was stored however many years ago. It moves pretty smoothly.

Minnesota A

Officially this is a Channukah present from Theo. I’m a lucky gal.

 

PaleGray Labs

That’s what Theo Gray and I are calling our quilting/embroidery/stitchcoding/animation collaboration. PaleGrayLabs.com currently redirects to the “quilting” category of this blog, but hopefully it’ll get its own web site eventually. Mostly so we can use this logo I designed:

and that Theo stitchcoded:

 

Ziz Quilt finished

quilted animation, animated quilt

It took me a while, but I finally got around to stitching the Ziz quiltimation into a single wallhanging. To recap, here’s how these frames look in a movie:

Quilt Plotter

Last weekend Theo and I visited Central Missouri to look at a quilt plotter. We brought our own design to test. Here’s a video:

And here’s our finished test quilt:

Theo did all the stitchcoding, and made the graduated spirals in Mathematica.

This certainly gives us a lot to think about.

Embroidermation: Tree of Life

The source animation (a vector file sequence) was adapted from my short segment for the upcoming feature film “The Prophet.” That will definitely not be rendered in Embroidermation, but the Tree of Life is such a classic, traditional embroidery motif it was just crying out to be used in this test.

embroidery

In addition to stitchcoding, Theo hooped and ran the machine on all 96 frames, and then he made them into a flipbook.

Theo hand-stitching 96 embroidered frames into a flipbook

Because he’s crazy, that’s why. He even crafted a copper rig to cut out the frames precisely, and register them for photography (he photographed them too).

embroidermation cutting device

Embroidermation Test 4

animated quilt, quilted animation

Really this is Quiltimation, the result of our embroidery/quilting/trapplique techniques. Here’s a single frame without all the .gif compression 8-bit color artifacts:

embroidermation Ziz single frameThe trapplique technique was a lot of work, requiring multiple hoopings for each frame, as well as precision cutting and placing. We probably won’t do more of that. Our next project is more traditional embroidery with just one color of fabric and multiple colors of thread. Whole lotta math required to make this work, which is fortunately Theo’s department. Meanwhile I’ll stitch together these 12 frames into some sort of viable wall hanging.

Embroidermation Test 3

We had a little breakthrough at Gray-Paley* Labs, doing trapplique with the embroidery machine.

Theo improved stitch quality within the Ziz, but for some reason our registration between layers is always off. As you can see, the machine stitches the registration borders 1-2mm apart on the bottom, while they’re almost exactly lined up at the top. We can’t get our satin stitch quite on target, because the registration step is always slightly off from the satin stitch step. We discovered the machine thinks the files are slightly different sizes. It’s Theo’s challenge to figure out why, since everything is exported from Mathematica at the same resolution.

Even with these problems, the trapplique is a big aesthetic step forward in the project, and if we can work out the remaining technical kinks I’ll be able to make a 12-frame cycle/12-panel quilt soon.

This teal-on-blue iteration used wool batting on the bottom layer, making it the puffiest trapplique by far.

*Graley? PaleGray?