Thursday, August 30, 2018

The end of Summer (and a great Dahlia quilt)

My kids are now back to school. When summer arrives, it always seems like I will not possibly manage 10 whole weeks with everybody under one roof. Then, 10 weeks blow past in the blink of an eye. I have done some work over the summer, but mostly in the early mornings while everyone slept.  Since we went on vacation the first 2 weeks they were off, it has been nearly 2 months of just doing things around home. The summer has been warm, which I do love. It lets us go to the beach more often. Maine beaches are only palatable when it is over 85. Two of my kiddos still love to wander around with me. The 16 yr old thinks I'm old and inappropriate to be seen with - except for the many driving hours we have had to do in pursuit of his license. THAT is as painful for me as it is for him probably!

This week dealt us a big blow. On Sunday I realized our oldest cat (who was only 10-1/2) did not eat. We determined that she'd barfed Saturday's dinner (a kid failed to relay that info...after all one cat puking hardly constitutes an emergency until she refuses food the entire next day). On Monday she went to the vet in the early morning. At this point, I was very surprised she was as sick as she'd obviously gotten overnight. My husband objected when I told him I thought she really was on her way out, and we ought to keep her home. He took her anyway. During the day, I stopped by with the kids. The vet said Sally had improved, but she had no idea what was wrong. In the late afternoon, she called to say we needed to make a decision. THAT decision. Sally had a siezure, and her body was shutting down. I feel so bad for not demanding she stay at home to go through this around people that care for her. Thoughts of her in a cage, with tubes in her, and dogs around her makes me cry. Monday evening, Sophie and I went to see her for the last time, and to bring our girl home for burial. I've never seen my kid cry so much. It was a wretched day. sally had become so much Sophie's kitty.
The next 2 days were hot beach days. I was trying to keep my kids busy, hoping some time away and together would help to heal the sadness. The beach is our happy place.


 It was a "plenty of ice cream" kind of week.
 Even still, it is moments I catch like this that tear at my heart-strings. Clearly she is still processing this loss. As a parent, I want to protect my kids from the  heart ache life brings. I'm not ready for her to lose her innocence, but a small piece of it disappeared this week.
Fortunately, I was 95% finished with this Dahlia Dinner Plate quilt belonging to Jackie Kunkel when our world caved in this week. It was easy to wrap up on Tuesday morning. It is a crazy-complex Judy Niemeyer design that will be released in the coming months. Jackie's rendition of it is soon to be photographed and become their pattern cover!
 I chose a combination of freehand designs and template patterns.
 And of course, some feathers!
 The trick with quilts this complicated is always figuring the most expeditious way to quilt it - ditching areas that need it and catching the fill patterns at the same time.
 It is stitched in 40wt Glide thread in gray, Surperior Magnifico in cranberry, white (brand???) and a pale pink YLI polished poly. All of these threads look very comparable. I also double batted this with 80/20 and wool to show the texture.
 It is hard to tell, but some of the fabrics have cute kitty faces and mouse shapes. The backing has fish bones. It was probably a very good thing I was mostly done before the issues with our cat happened.

The back shows the texture very nicely.
 These fabrics are a soon to be released collection Jackie has with Island Batik...I'm sure she'll chime in and tell me which fabric collection it is. I can't remember.
Have a great Labor day weekend, and find something nice to quilt!

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Summer

With just 3 weeks left of our summer break, each day passes and I wonder what minuscule morsel of productivity I will get that day. I think my brain needed the break, but I really hoped to be further along on several projects. I have quilted a few quilts, one was rather large, but I still feel like I usually do more. I have been getting ready for 2 teaching jobs, one this month at Mancuso's World Quilt show in Manchester, NH and MQX Midwest in September in Springfield, IL. Getting ready always takes longer than it should - cutting fabrics, battings, backing fabric, making folders, etc finding out what you did not order...

Here's one baby quilt done back in late June and never shared... 
 Simple and sweet.

 Here's another of June's finishes...

I decided to load this absolute monstrosity (96"x124") in the summer, against all rules of quilting large customs while my kids are home. It was mostly quilted between 6am-10am, or on the weekends. Summer at least affords them sleep time. Not so much for me though...
 It is the Neimeyer Bali wedding star, beautifully pieced by Anna. I double batted this quilt so as to show off the elegant quilting.
 Quilting is done with beige, tan and a couple of colors of thread on the stars.
 It was on my frame about 2 weeks - an incredible number of hours!
 The owner was delighted, which is all that matters in the end.
 I have another Neimeyer quilt coming my way next week from Jackie Kunkel. When I get back from teaching next week, I will get going on it. It is about 1/2 the size of this beast though!
This next quilt was done last week, and the owner will be here at the end of the month to collect it. She's always challenging to quilt for because I know she does not prefer dense quilting. I'm not very good at keeping the density NOT dense. I just love the look of very dense stitching.
 It is a combination of linework, crosshatching and simple lightly-done fills.

 In June as soon as school got out, we took off for Jamaica for 11 days. We spent a week on the west coast, staying at a cliffside resort.  My kids got to jump into the turquoise water every day from a variety of heights up to about 15ft. He's my dare devil.

 Nice sunsets...lots of heat and humidity (just the way I love it).
 We spent 4 days in Montego Bay too, closer to ziplining, tubing, snorkeling. The kids also parasailed, played in the surf, etc. Hard to go wrong. It is a very happy, though poor place. I can easily see how people go there and stay though because it is beautiful.

Over the last 3 weeks, I have tackled painting 4 rooms in our house. Updating has been slow to happen over recent years.  Sophie's room is now aqua (there's her growing wall of fame).
 The powder room is a happy lavender.
 The kid's bathroom is green (though this makes it look much more chartreuse than it is. The half-peeled fish wallpapers that I put up when my oldest was one are now a thing of the past.
 And, his room was painted too. The last painting was 5-1/2 yrs ago when he was in 5th grade. Somehow, the kelly green walls, toy box and soccer wall stickers were slightly outgrown. The turquoise walls are much prettier (and the curtains are now a plain black panel drape, also much nicer than these faded gray ones.
On top of a little quilting, beach outtings, travel out of the country and painting, I can only say that I am still working on a couple of show quilts. My Value of Violet is finished with the quilting, but a full reveal will wait until the spring when it goes to its first show. Suffice it to say that I am pleased as punch with how it looks and am starting to think about how to bind it.

Hopefully your summer is just marginally more productive!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Cat's out of the Bag - Jackie & I are cover girls!

I finally have the go ahead to share this quilt, Cactus in Bloom, made by my friend Jackie Kunkel from her collection of Island Batik fabrics which I believe will be available this fall. The pattern is in the next AQ magazine, on the news stands in a couple weeks! In March, I had the pleasure of getting to quilt it for her. I mean, seriously, is this not a great cover quilt?!? (yes, I am biased) I do love when the cover quilts actually show the quilting. 
 Here's the finished quilt...
March feels like a lifetime ago, so naturally I have forgotten what concoction of batting(s) this has. It has at least one layer of wool, possibly a layer of 80/20 also. It is quilted with several threads, all 40wt and in a variety of colors.
 Sometimes when she gives me quilts with lots of open space I choose to ignore the piecing and treat the space as one open area. Not so this time. I actually decided to quilt the braid pattern up every sashing to really bring some texture to the background. Each Cactus Star has lots of 1/4" like echoing to reiterate the pointed piecing. I then added wiggly lines in a contrasting thread up the centers of the colored spikes.
 Blank squares are softened by using a freehand fill, centering a 1" circle for added dimension. The thread coordinates with the fabric, so there is only texture. I did not want to compete with the braided sashings, which are stitched in purple thread.
The aqua inner border has a double ribbon candy. Anybody who has taken my Dense & Dainty class knows that I teach many different designs. Some I intentionally include, knowing that some quilters find them something of a tongue-twister for patterns. For me, ribbon candy is that tongue-twister. I knew this was a great pattern for this location, and it took all my control to get it stitched!! Once I quilted the first pass, I felt that it needed more definition, so I added an echo to it. The finished result has LOTS of texture.


 The outer border was a bit of a conundrum to quilt. The fabric is gorgeous, but it has a lot of print. Choosing quilting to show was challenging (and I'm not positive I fully succeeded either!).
I used a pink-purple variegated Aurifil thread. Now, I just love this 40 wt thread, but it is very pricey so I have to really want to use it if it is selected (translation...very special quilts get the Aurifil!). I wanted to carry the triangles from Jackie's piecing into the quilting. Then to fill them, I thought feathers. I quickly backtracked because this is not traditional. I then selected a non-traditional edgy fishy-spine feather. It's kind of spiky like the quilt.

Jackie always makes perfectly constructed quilts. Never is the quilt not square. Likewise, there will never be a non-flat border. I know her construction standards are excellent, so it is great to quilt her tops. She also tends to challenge me with her design aesthetic, letting me get out of my usually more-traditional realm and into a place where I can be more playful, and sometimes even sort of modern & innovative. I can't wait to see what she sends my way next!

AND...
if you read the AQ cover, I too have an article in this edition. This article was written to go into Machine Quilting Unlimited, but they closed production a week before I was to submit it. AQS was more than happy to publish it. I wont show any photos from this article, but I have proofed it, and think that they did a fabulous job with the photos and the layout. Can't wait to see it in print!

If you are interested in getting this magazine, visit americanquilter.com!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Figuring out the Impossible

This quilt was mostly quilted last summer or early fall, and as of today has no official name. I guess, the quilt becomes "real" when the maker names it. It was originally made with the hope of finishing by December 2017 to enter in spring Paducah. I became disenchanted with things about it last year, stopped working on it, then proceeded to mark a peach piece of silk with the same pattern. The hope was that "try #2" would yield a good quilt. Needless to say, there was no entry for Paducah and I had 2 small quilts unfinished.
(yes, I know the damn circle at the center is not centered...to be dealt with)

On the bright side, the peach version of this quilt (named Persistent Peach) was finished, and is currently awaiting her first show! I'll show photos of this quilt, which has small differences from her green step sister, next month.

After I knew Persistent Peach would be done, I went back to this quilt and vowed to finish it, even if I later decided it would only be good enough to keep for myself. Finish what you start, I told myself.

Because the peach quilt is truly a whole cloth, meaning the quilt and binding are all from the same peach fabric, I decided to make this a "wall quilt". Should it actually make it to shows, I don't need 2 whole cloths. This worked well for my plan because I really wanted to incorporate black into the binding somehow (making it ineligible for the whole cloth category anyway). The quilting has lots of black thread on it.

I also decided I'd do a "go for the gusto" or freakishly nutsy binding. What better quilt to try something different on than one that may not be up to snuff anyways. I always fear screwing up a really well done quilt with my binding, but when the quilt is somewhat compromised, where's the harm?

So, this post will show you my thought process on how I added a silly edge of green and black loopy things, some black beaded trim and my first ever (maybe even last) facing. It is every-bit not my style, but I wanted to try these things.

The first task was to make a crazy amount - like 12 yards of green silk turned piping. It is stuffed with a piece of yarn. Sometime a year or so ago I think I showed how I did this for The Twisted Sister, but this quilt has MUCH more of this stuff. It was then cut into a couple hundred 2-3/4" pieces to make loops -- like those on the edges of a couple of Sharon Schamber's older quilts.
 This beady piping is not something I would use on every quilt, but since I was doing a facing, I thought it would give it a bolder black detail than a single micro piping. Though I worked this out simply on my own using a 2" piece of interfaced bias silk and purchased 4mm beads on a string, Bethanne Nemesh does teach classes on the technique. 170 inches of this trim took me about 10-11 hours to create - so not really an afternoon job, but not outrageous either. I used a very grippy thread (Black Omni) to stitch and knot between each bead. It was then trimmed to yield a 1/4" seam allowance, and stitched onto the edge of the quilt with a zipper foot.
One might think that sewing beside plastic beads is risky, but I only broke one needle in the entire binding process, and it was while doing the facing, which is completely blind (no visibility of the beads).

The piping is added first, then the green loops were individually glued to the quilt, set with pins until the glue dries. This took a proverbial lifetime because I could only set about 24" at a time, as my ironing board was in use with other things.
After they were all set, I stitched them down (zipper foot), and went to the facing.

Even though the quilt is silk, and the backing is a sateen, I chose to use a black batik for the facing. It is much tighter weave than the sateen, and I felt it would yield a more rigid framing. Colorwise, it was a good match.

I added one side of the 4-1/2" facing (pressed in half) to discover that small variations in measurement on the green loopies really showed (sorry, no photo). I was not happy. I had just discovered a finer satin cording, and ordered a lot of it, thinking I might remove the green loops and just go with black. At that point, I took off for Jamaica for 12 days, forgot about the quilt-binding-mess, and vowed to reinvent it upon my return.

When I got back, and saw the new cording, I decided to add an entire layer of black loops to the green loops, thereby doubling the loop density. This glue and pin eternity started again while I quilted client quilts for a few days. Not to fear, you will see a picture of my insanity soon...

So with the trim and loops, there was a goodly amount of bulk, and I feared it would not show nicely beneath the facing. Further, it was really challenging to get the quilt, with its double batting, to turn to the backside and lay smoothly.  Here's a glimpse at the thickness...

I contacted an art quilter who I know has a lot of experience with making faced quilts in hopes she could shed some light on what I should do. Sarah Ann Smith to the rescue!...

We brainstormed about how to make the bulk lay down better. She does not add the bulky edge trims that I used, but her more vast facing experience helped me to know a few things to definitely not to do. Don't trim the excess quilt - that may make it nearly impossible to get it to fold to the backside. Her first suggestion, which I knew of before contacting her was to run a row of stitching along the top of the quilt, right at the edge, catching the seam in its turned position. The problem with doing this is that I have a clean edge of matchstick quilting that I don't want interrupted with a seam running the opposite way. Good things to consider for the next time (LOL...there probably won't be a next time!) I do a facing. This is something I used to do with garment construction to make collars lay cleanly. It works for quilts too.


We decided I could trim away some of the thickness of this seam - namely excess of the loops outboard of the seam. Since the green loops were filled with yarn, they are thick. The quilt was not possible to thin down because it has this matchstick quilting right out to the edge.

I also trimmed as much as I could from the quilt and loops around the slightly rounded corners. The corners don't really turn easily to the backside anyways.

The other thing we decided would work was to hand baste the turned seam down, thereby preventing it from flapping up within the facing. This was a small stroke of genius. I didn't need ultra tiny stitches - 3 to the inch worked just fine.
The next step was something I was not sure would be needed, but I decided $3 of fusible was not a huge investment. I cut 1-3/4" wide fusible strips and stuck them underneath my double-fold facing, making sure to place it on top of the turned seam. This way the facing would adhere to the seam. It's not like my stitches were not going to hold, but this was their insurance policy. LOL!
 If nothing else, the fusible means I don't need to wrangle with pins when I hand stitch the facing. That is a $3 win-win!
It is a different look for me. I'd like to say it was a fun and interesting journey of a quilt, from working with the black thread to playing with a wild edge long after the worry of actually screwing up a competition quilt wore off. When there is no expectation, or assumption of what a quilt will be used for, the process becomes much more carefree, almost liberating. I am going to bling it up a little. Perhaps you can see the black crystals I already added to the corner. I have a few more to use. Some quilts just need more pizzazz.
So, thanks Sarah for being my sounding board on this. I know you said to get a sample and try things but seriously, this quilt was sort of my learning piece. How badly could I really screw this up?!? Next time I will use a sample. For today, I am happy with how it turned out. All it needs now is to hand stitch the facing down and add a sleeve & label. Oh, and I need to give it a name... Any ideas? Thus far mine have all been R-rated, thus not usable. Ha ha...!