Sunday, January 17, 2010

Piecing a Seascape Valance

I was born and raised in Southern California and grew up loving the beach.  Although I've lived in Utah for over 25 years now and love the majestic mountains that flank the Salt Lake Valley, I will always have a bit of the sea in me.  

My parents lived in Port Hueneme (prounounced "Wy-NEE-me") in Ventura County and owned a large working boat.  Their business was named
Seashore Recovery, and along with the Coast Guard (whose primary goal was to save lives), they worked with insurance companies to save vessels all up and down the Southern California coast (my step-dad was a captain).   Sometimes they'd take a day trip on the ocean to fish, other times they'd find some quiet cove in the nearby Channel Islands, drop anchor, and stay for a few days.

Their home was very sea-themed, as you would expect.  They lived less than a mile from the ocean.  I loved visiting their light and airy condo.  When they passed away,  my brother and I saved all the family heirlooms, of course, but we also cherished the nautical items they'd collected together.  When DH & I remodeled our three bathrooms in 2008, the master bath became my seashore bathroom, in the colors that my mother loved; light green and light blue.   The southern-facing window in the bathroom was replaced, but now it needs a valance.

At Crazy Quilting International, a Yahoo group for crazy quilters from all over the world, we are having a 2010 Challenge.  It consists of a new technique or theme for every month, and some of us want to combine some or most of the techniques on a single piece.  So, I decided to do a valance in a seashore theme for my Challenge piece.  The January challenge was curved piecing and fans, so I included those in this project.

The first thing I did was measure the bathroom window.  I played around with some design ideas in my sketchbook.  I knew I wanted a valance that would hang from tabs on the top (tabs can be added on after the the CQ'ing is done, at the final construction stage), that would have a wavy bottom to lend a sea-feel, and I wanted to incorporate fans in the piecing.  

Once I had a rough design down, I taped together several sections of newsprint and made a rough pattern.  I left the curves off the newsprint, and was able to experiment with plain paper additions to get the proportions right.

From this point it was easy to trace the outline onto muslin.  For the fans, I just used rulers and curved edges to mark even blades.  I used a Sharpie permanent marker, and as you can see, the design shows through on the back.   That was done intentionally, to help with the fan piecing.

But first, I added a "sandy beach" section in the upper right.  I have to have some California gulls or a pelican in there somewhere, don't you think??  For this area I used the flip-and-sew method, except for the large corner curve.

This is my fan-piecing method, which I learned from the one and only Betty Pillsbury.  I'm not sure if she originated this method or not, but regardless, it's a great way to assure even blades.  First I selected the fabric for the first blade (in this case a silk that I had to interface), and cut out a blade that was larger than I knew I'd need.  Better safe than sorry!

You'll see below that I've flipped it over (that's the interfacing you see) and lined up the right edge of the fabric with the left edge of the pattern, overlapping by approximately 1/4".   Pin it there.  You can't see where to stitch, can you, because the fabric covers the line.

So.... that's when you turn it over (remember, you've pinned it) and stitch along the line from the back.  Pretty clever, eh?

Then turn it back over and press.  First press it on the wrong side, then flip it so the right side shows and press it again.  It'll give you a much cleaner line.

And so I continued this way until both fans were done.  The pins below are just for the picture; I don't usually pin these on the seamline where they'll be sewn, LOL!

After the "beach" and fans were completed,  I switched to fusing my pieces  This enabled me to have greater control over the shapes of the pieces, as i wanted to have a lot of curves, which typically show movement for the "ocean".  So, I'd cut a few pieces, experiment with their placement, then add fusible webbing (I used Heat & Bond, light and sewable).  Once in place, I'd fuse them to the muslin.

I tried to maintain a minimal overlap of pieces only.  Some of the slinky fabrics tend to show everything underneath (which is why these probably came from a thrift store - there's not a slinky ANYTHING in my own wardrobe for that very reason!  LOL).   But seam treatments will cover any irregularities.

I placed the darker fabrics along or near the bottom edges to give a feel of deeper waters toward the bottom.

Here's the entire valance pieced.

Close-up of Left Side

Close-up of Right Side

Close-up of Center

Close-up of Left Fan

So..... that's what I've been working on for the last couple weeks.


pineapple_ing said...

Hi Cathy,
I don't think I've ever left a comment here before this, but even now.. I am just speechless!! Wow! I can't wait to see it all stitched up with all kinds of UTS stitches and embellishments. You'll have to let me know next time you come out to Ventura, CA. I'm only a hop-skip away. Again, it is just gorgeous Cat!!
Hugs, Ing in Simi Valley, CA

CarolynPhi said...


I love the whole valance!!! Aren't you going to have a wonderful time working on this beauty?!! I particularly like the center area of the valance where it looks like foamy water rushing onto the beach!

I've just done a paper-pieced fan tutorial for the CQ A-Z lessons, and I remember Betty saying that she used muslin instead of paper. Thank you for showing her technique, I'll definitely be trying it!

I'm going to enjoy watching your beautiful piece transformed into a California sea shore...already looks like one to me...

Love and hugs,

Bobbi Pohl said...

Really nice. The design is balanced, interesting and fulfills your seascape goal. Love the colors.

Lesley said...

What a beautiful way to remember your parents. Your colour choices are perfect. I haven't been brave enough to tackle curves yet, but you've inspired me. Keep your fingers crossed for me Best Wishes, Lesley

gocrazywithme said...

Thanks for all the pictures and directions, Cat, I've been wondering how you were going to do this. It's looking beautiful already!

Nicki Lee said...

Cathy, I truly enjoyed reading how you put your valance together and am in awe at how beautiful it came out. I love the colors and the curvy designs. I too am a lover of the sea and all things blue. Most of my CQ items are usually UTS in theme so if you ever need something to add to your valance just let me know and I'd be happy to share.

Heather said...

Cathy... this is going to be wonderful, can't wait to see the finished product! I also grew up near the sea (actually the apartment I was born in was right across the road - no houses in front- from the sea - and I still can't get it out of my blood!). Hugs.

Irish Kathi said...


FredaB said...

Hi Cathy

You have done a great job in your curved piecing and I like Betty's method of piecing the fans. I have to tell you to go and at least look at JBM's new book fibre Art Montage. she has gorgeous landscapes and seascapes in it.

I am sick of the butterfly one and would love to work on an underwater one but my nagging consience won't let me start another until I am done. This happens on every one I make.

Love your colors they are so soft.

I will enjoy watching this come to life.



kerrykatiecakeskeb43 said...

Wow Cathy! Where do I start? I love the colours and the shape and the piecing on your valance! The whole concept is just wonderful - what a show piece it will be!
Thank you so much for the pan tutorial - I can't wait to try it!

Thelma said...

Beautiful Cathy!! such an awesome idea!

CJ Stitching and Blooms said...

Hello Cahy your CQ piece valance is absolutely fantastic. What a great job of curved piecing. You will have to teach me!!! What a wonderful story behine your seascape valance. I enjoyed reading it allot. I am sure you stitching will make it the most fantastic valance anywhere. Huge Hug Judy

Connie said...

Way behind on reading my mail and just now saw your valance. I LOVE it! You did a great job with the shapes and I'm really seeing the movement you were going for. I'm also very keen on your colors. Fabulous darling fabulous --- can't wait to see it embellished.

Jean Tuthill said...

What a beautiful piece it is and I can imagine how it will look when you finish it. Please keep us posted as you work on it. I love the crazy quilting and I am retiring next week. I hope to have some time to experiment with some CQing. (and blogging more!)

donnarae said...

This is so cool! Where are you going to put it?

Rose Brier Studio said...

The valance is so pretty. I love seashore themes. I live about a mile from the beach -- east coast. But in college my parents bought one of the lots right on the water in Ventura Keys and I know just what your folks' view was like. Thanks so much for visiting. So glad to find your blog!

pam said...

Hi Cathy,
Oh I just adore and love that valance/the story behind the inspiration too.
How easy and well you explained the method even for me( am a visual person hence your photo's helps me understands with ''minds eye'')
The way you used those colours and shapes tell a truly beautiful story even with out embellishments.
As you can tell i love love it!!!!
Warm wishes

Cindy said...

Wow, I'm in awe. The 'inspector cat' watching over was a nice touch too. Can hardly wait to see the finished product.

Debra said...

That's one ambitious project! Very pretty colors too.

Plays with Needles said...

Cathy == the whole story and significance of the sea and the valance for your bathroom makes this a GREAT piece before you even START!

I loved reading the story and seeing the piece come to life. This is going to be a LOT of fun to watch develop. I'm going to enjoy this show!