Monday, August 18, 2014

Phase 3 - Burnout

I have been puttering with this quilt off and on for nearly a week.  The first few days seemed to be going well, but as usually happens, last Friday, I hit a wall.  I was making mistakes, quilting things I didn't like and second guessing things I had already stitched.  It is currently stabilized enough to remove, which I need to do so I can get onto some client work.  I may give myself another day to finish this diamond border though.

Because there is a slight difference in the length of the borders from side to side, I chose to end the triangles like this, rather than running them into the half-circle spikey things.  Diamonds outlined...
In the same deep green silk thread, I have added 1/8" fill to pop the diamonds.  They definitely pop, but they are too large to just leave by them selves.  The interior needs some quilting.
 Another view...at the corner which seems to have mysteriously morphed from a nice square unit. This causes me consternation.  I know that it started very squarely, and hope that a good final blocking will restore that.
The last step in this diamond border is to echo the diamond 1/4" inside, and fill it densely.  This is the same filler I used on other diamonds on the quilt.  Of course <> I wish I had gone a slightly larger echo, like 3/8".  Oh well, this isn't coming out.  I do have some dense mess to remove, but this hasn't surpassed my "I must remove" threshold.  Currently, one corner is done, one is up to the point of the previous photo, and the other two just have the frame stitched. 
 Right now, I have gotten frustrated with my design.  I may well remove it from the frame and LOVE it; this does sometimes happen.   But I need a break.  I have been working on this and my silk ivory wholecloth simultaneously, as that one needs to be finished in about a month if I am to enter it at Road to California.  It is growing on me a lot as it progresses.

I will leave you with a look at the center of this quilt.  I am not extremely pleased with the quilting on the pink.  I ripped it out once already when I discovered the thread was too dark.  The particular design I chose is tricky to get good symmetry.  I tried, but I see the boo boos.  I really LOVE the center, but the critical skeptic in me is worrying that the center doesn't go with the rest of the quilt.  SIGH!...time to move on I guess, let it sit, and let me work on something else.
This is how projects go...I love it, I hate it, I don't know how I feel about it...Tomorrow's another day :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Phase Two...Working on Center Details

Today was the 2nd day of quilting on my silk quilt, undisturbed.  The photos I took today are a bit discombobulated in that I worked on a variety of areas simultaneously.  This makes it a bit harder to discuss areas easily.  But...perhaps if I show you a sketch of how I initially envisioned the quilting to be, this will be easier.

If you have followed my blog, you have seen some of the many ways I design quilting.  I have showed sketches like this, drawn in pencil.  I have also done ones on tracing paper, which are often done to size and used with a light-box to transfer designs.  I also draw on electronic images using a Bamboo-pen tablet.  All work well, and allow you to visualize the plan.  The quilting for this particular quilt was designed the cave-man method...pencil on printed photo.  This is often my mode of choice if I want to design on the go.
This is only the center of the quilt, but it shows how I hope to transform a pieced star in square set on point, to a jazzy star, in an octagon setting!  The quilt is flamboyant in it's use of the pink and blue.  I want the quilting of the star to represent this.  I have the points in each color designed slightly differently, but they are all styles of quilting that you will see repeated in other places in the quilt, thereby making them cohesive.

First step...the larger green triangles.  They have this fun little swirly shaped spine for the feathers.  In order to make the template, I used a technique similar to what I showed yesterday.  I traced the actual quilt, and drew the shape I wanted.  It was then transferred to a piece of cardboard for tracing onto the quilt.
Here's the end result.  The actual triangle is also ditch stitched, as all of the star points will be before it is finished.
Another thing that is important to do is to baste the seam lines that you really need/want to maintain straight.  I hadn't yet ditch stitched the pale green background to the deeper olive border, but it is basted to eliminate any shifting.  It may seem like overkill, but it saves me more times.

The blue triangles were next.  As it turns out, I deviated from my original plan slightly, in that I omitted the 1/8" striping I thought I might quilt inside of the pebbles.  That's OK...it happens ALL the time.  The best laid plans are only that...plans.  I got this much of the quilting done, and decided I really liked the positive space created without the stripes.  It gives the eyes a place to rest.  Besides, it is much easier to add the quilting later than to remove it!  In the same color thread, I also did the center with some kicking 1/4" cross-hatching.  It went in flawlessly too, which is an added plus when adjacent sections align so easily!
The dark blue points were done next.  It makes me nervous to ditch in a deep color, with a pale background, but this had to be done.  I also had to mark the block in something other than my fall-back blue and purple marking pens.  For this, I used a piece of chalk.  It is the refill to my Bohin chalk pencil,and is nice and sharp.  Never use the colors, as they may contain a wax which can be hard to remove.  I have heard horror stories from quilters about the yellow and green, but white is JUST chalk and is perfect.  I have marked a centerline and a couple other key places.
This motif is simpler, which is just fine.  The eye is allowed to bounce all over from the larger and busier green feathered triangles, to the pebbled blue triangles, and back to the more grounding blue points.  I can't stress enough that a quilt must have a means to draw the viewer's eye to the center, and then have reasons why it keeps coming back to the center (aka repeat of patterns throughout the quilting).  Count the repeated motifs...swirls (I showed this in yesterday's quilting), pebbles, cross-hatching.
 I'm going to end it here for today.  I have gone beyond this point with the quilting, but it is a discussion for another day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Designing a Show Quilt...My Process

I have started to quilt the 40" green silk quilt I showed in my last post.  My kids are away three days this week, and though I don't expect to finish the quilting, I do hope to get large areas finished, and the remainder of it stabilized enough to safely remove it from the frame before Monday.  Today I have quilted these 4 blue-green corners.  I thought it might be helpful to some to understand my process during the quilting.  Now, I have already designed what I plan to quilt.  This post is about how on earth I implement the quilting.  Some days, even I wonder how that will occur!

So, here is the finished corner...
Let's backtrack through each stage of this quilting, starting even before this point.  Below, you see the bare space, unquilted.  I have stabilized the blue-green interface with basting stitches so that it remains nice and straight.  What I don't want is a stitched line there, as that will cut straight through my motifs.  The swirly frame that is drawn on the silk in blue marker was created and marked prior to loading the quilt.  I used tracing paper, and sketched the design I wanted.  Tracing paper allows me to audition the design with the quilt showing through.  I then created a cardboard (using a manila folder) template of this shape, and sketched it onto all 4 corners.
This shape is the "bare bones" or frame of the design, so it is the first to be stitched.  For those curious, this quilt is hand-dyed silk Radiance, the thread is 100wt silk, and I have double-batted with Hobbs 80/20 and wool.  I do use my curved templates when necessary to stitch nice neat curves.  The longer curves can be harder to stitch purely free-hand.  Since my machine is NOT computerized, I use whatever tools I have at my disposal to create neat stitching.  Templates are like my second skin...I have close to 50 of them! 
 These 90 degree lines were marked next.  They are spaced 1/2" apart.
Next I stitch the feather sprays.  The smaller ones on the outside are pretty simple, and all I mark is an external boundary.  The larger ones at he center must be somewhat marked so that they end up symmetrical.  To begin, I stitch one of them.
What I need to do next is make a pattern from the feathers I just stitched.  I took a piece of Press-n-Seal, placed it over the feathers.  I then trace them with a sharpie pen, very carefully and gently.  To press too hard would be a frustrating disaster!
Next, press the piece of Press-n-Seal onto a piece of cardboard.  I cut mine from an empty Cheese-It box.  Nothing goes wasted in our house!  

Now, cut out the pattern.
I left the curves of the feathers as a reference.  If I can follow the feathers and match to the ones on the other side, then great.  If not, that is fine too.  This is free-hand quilting, and I don't expect my work to look like a machine did it.  I just expect clean quilting and creativity.
 Trace the boundary of the template, and quilt!
Looks pretty good to me, and if you can stare at it from 12" and think that, imagine what it will look like on a wall!  From here, creating a fun design is all about utilizing different, yet cohesive, design elements in your spaces.  I stitched these chevrons, alternatively filling each space.  This makes the other (or positive) pop out.  I also decided mid-quilting that I wanted those 1/4" circles on the apexes of the chevrons.  Some design elements do actually come after quilting has started.  I don't always plan every element apriori.  I know that I will use parallel like work on this quilt too, and this is an area that you can use several different styles simultaneously (ie., 1/8" spaced, 1/4" spaced, and any other variation) and still obtain design cohesion.  This time I chose a 1/4" spacing, with every other space filled with 1/16" lines.  The blue area has not been stitched because that will actually be quilted with a blue thread, maybe tomorrow (and I really don't know what is going there!!).  FYI...these corners are about 10" on the short side (blue), and it took me about 4 hours to quilt all 4 of them!  I am kind of neurotic about being neat, which is slow, and all stops and starts are knotted and buried.
 
 Hopefully you will enjoy seeing how this design unfolds.  I will try to post another sequence of "How the Heck did she Quilt that" in a few days.  Happy sewing~

Monday, August 04, 2014

A finish from last month

I have been quilting some this summer, but believe it or not, I have done 4 quilts for a client writing a book which I have to wait an entire year to show!  That hasn't left too much to share here.  I also thought I had pictures from Quilt Odyssey that might have been nice, but they are embedded on my stupid iphone that refuses to sync with the computer.  Somehow emailing them to myself is just too much to do!

This quilt was finished last month before we went on vacation.  It's on the order of 56-60".  The bright solids are just cotton batiks, while the dark fabrics (which there are actually several fabrics ranging from deep navy to black) are a rather heavy broadcloth.  This fabric was challenging at times to get to lay flat, but the client is happy none the less.
 The dark background is quilted with a couple of colors of thread...honestly it has been 2-3 weeks and I have forgotten.  I think part of it is a variegated blue/purple and the rest is in black or deep blue.  I do remember that I originally planned to do some curved cross-hatching in the background but because of the bulky seam intersections, it was difficult and was abandoned.  Free-motioning worked just fine though.
 All points are ditched with clear thread so that the points stay crisp.

My summer holding pattern ends in 3-1/2 weeks.  The kids have been fine most of the summer, but I am getting itchy to get onto some of my lingering projects.  My littlest has finally agreed to a week of Rec camp (hoping she'll see some school friends, and mostly because they go to Aquaboggin!), and the boys will be off with Nana part of that week.  On account of this, I started marking my 40" silk quilt to get started on it.  I'm not entirely sure I have all the thread I need so I better have a look at that situation also! Here's a peek at it unquilted (and taken before I finished the blue dots too).  The quilting transformation is about to occur!...


Monday, July 28, 2014

Maine Quilts 2014

Today (and probably half of this week) I will be recuperating from having been on vacation.   Being away is supposed to rejuvenate you, but I find that I have just come home overtired, and with, as usual, too much to do.  The family went to Hershey, PA - did the chocolate eating, roller-coaster riding thing for a week.  While there, I did get to attend the Quilt Odyssey show, which I had 2 winning quilts in.  I will save that post for another day this week though.  It's a fabulous show considering how small it really is.  We drove 9-10 hours home Saturday so that my boys could start a baseball camp yesterday, and I could go retrieve quilts that I had at the Maine Quilt show.

This show was visibly smaller this year.  I counted only 59 judged quilts, which is a good 30 less than the past few years.  They cap the judged entries at 100, so this is WAY off of what it has been.  Each year I hear rumors that this show is in jeopardy of not happening the next year.  I actually believe that now.  I had 2 quilts of my own in the show, and it turns out that I had 3 clients that had quilts in the show too.  All of them did wonderfully.

Here's Wendy's gorgeous blue and white quilt.  For more pics, go here.  She got a great blue ribbon, plus a judge's choice from one of the NQA judges.  This quilt nearly didnt get into the show on account of the shows completely ridiculous rules requiring written approval from a pattern designer. Yes, she used a purchased pattern for a seemingly simple 9-patch Irish chain, which is a well known, traditional pattern.   No, the pattern was not necessary.  I think a monkey could create this type pattern on its own.  BUT Wendy was too honest when she first sent in the application, and then the show coordinator made her get the written approval.  But the designer had gone nearly AWOL, and never responded to emails.  Wendy sent in another application stating that this is a reproduced traditional pattern at the same time I attempted to contact the designer.  It's not that I carry any more clout than she does, but I can be more direct and blunt.  She needs this, please provide it. NOW! Approval arrived via email the next day.  Phew.  It is far prettier in person than my bad-light photo shows, so have a look at the link.
Here's another blue ribbon-winning quilt that I quilted.  Sharleen brought me this last summer.  I really hate when a client brings you a top and says she wants quilting that will win, and not a 3rd place ribbon like her last quilter.  Seriously, folks, I am not the only variable in this equation.  Your piecing, and binding have a good deal to do with it in generic (aka non-machine quilting shows) shows.  Furthermore, how well a quilt does ought to have something to do with it's originality too, but not always, and certainly not at Maine.  This is a pattern that unless you live in a Siberian cave, you have seen many times. Judy Neimeyer patterns are prolific.  Many quilters love to make them.  They look complicated (heck, many really are!).  And I have quilted quite a few of them myself.  This one is the Amazon Star.  I absolutely loathe quilting this particular pattern because ditch stitching those long outer triangles is a chore, even on a 24" machine.  The pattern was clearly not designed by someone that longarm quilts and knows the limitations of quilting (machine hates to go 2' to the left, and some triangles are SO long that they can barely be stitched w/o moving the sandwich.  So, as a result of doing two of the Amazon Stars, and cursing considerably, I no longer accept this quilt.  I am much happier with some simple boundaries :-)  Anyhow, the quilt did earn a blue ribbon.  On top of that, it took home the viewer's choice yesterday.  I am happy that I contributed to a client doing well.  Many people commented to me that it was the quilting that won the awards, which is reassuring.  But, it's a bitter pill when the client is there and doesn't have the dignity to say a word to me.  This quilt also ribboned at MidAtlantic, and she didn't mention it then either.  I know that they aren't under obligation, but seriously, it was a team effort.  She didn't win it on her own.
This is Sue's wall hanging, which I quilted about a year and a half ago.  It's just darling; I loved it before I quilted it.  Here are pictures... She was timid about doing the binding, so it didn't go into last year's show.  So glad to see it this year.  It has some small piecing issues, but is so lovely finished.
My 2 quilts that were in the show both earned exceptional merit.  I have always loved this quilt.  It is relatively simple piecing compared to what some of the show quilters do, but the colors sing to me. The piecing is all large enough that quilting designs can be developed on it.  Sometimes pieces are so small that there's not much you can do on it.  Not here.  This is one of two exceptional merit ribbons at the show, so I am happy.  Two and a half years after making it, it still hangs well too.
 Here's my Springtime in the Geisha's Garden, Best of Judged.  I am constantly amazed at the people that look at something with dense, intricate quilting and automatically assume it is computerized.  I can't count the number of ladies I expained that it was NOT computerized to yesterday.  "But how do you get it so small?", it must be.  Sigh... I don't know a whole helluva lot about computerized systems but I have to believe it would be a complete pain to program it to stitch around all of my appliques! It's now at home resting, awaiting its trip to Houston next week!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Going to Houston!!

Official word came in today that two of my 2014 quilts were accepted into this year's IQA show this fall!! I'm always surprised, because this is Houston.  Nobody really knows what will happen at Houston.  Last year's quilt got in to my delight and then received the harshest scrutiny of it's short life (despite having enormous winnings at all other shows).  So, I entered these two rather half-heartedly, still feeling somewhat jaded from last year's experience.

 "Springtime in the Geisha's Garden" is one of my very favorite quilts.  It holds special memories because I bought many of the fabrics on my first trip to Paducah.  It is largely made by hand, and quilted beautifully.  But then, so are most of the quilts that get into Houston.  This one is in the mixed category -- it will be up against others that are pieced and appliqued and/or painted AND quilted to the hilt.

My other quilt "Autumn's Surrender" is simpler at first blush, but hopefully that will not be it's downfall.  It is silk, and is quilted with everything out there to see -- even from the plain, solid backside I gave it.  It is beautiful too, in a different way.  It is in the Merit Machine Quilting category, as this quilt is all about the quilting.  Hope this was a good decision!  This coming week, it is in Pennsylvania at the Quilt Odyssey show.

I don't know yet if I will make the trip to Houston.  I really want to, probably more than last year.  The dang hotels are SO expensive, to the tune of $250-300 per night.  The likelihood that I'd win anything to cover the trip is slim.  I have even another quilt that I quilted that is part of an exhibit of the show -- one of the late Frances Benton's applique quilts, an exhibit I'd love to get to see.  So, I need to figure things out and make a decision pretty soon.  Airfares only go up and hotels do sell out.  If I wait until the week of September 9th, when judging results are announced, there may not be much available.  Hard choices!  Good news anyhow.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Slug Pushes Onward

Sitting here at what is pretty close to the middle of summer, it is almost unbelievable hard to fathom how hard it is to be productive.  It is partly having someone else constantly needing or wanting something.  Partly it is the nice warm weather.  I have vacation eyes on right now, as we have a trip to Hershey, PA coming up soon.  I have been pushing through the smaller custom quilts, at an albeit slower than usual pace, but they are getting done.  I have also been doing some other things.  I have a quilt being pieced,  a little each week. Thank goodness it isn't complicated piecing!  Here's a couple client quilts I finished within the last week or two.  

This is only a 20" wall hanging - just my size!  It is pretty wool applique.  It was wicked fun to quilt.  If all my quilts could be this fun... 
 I double batted it to show off the relief, and used a nice SoFine thread.
This one will be making it's journey home come Monday.  It is 60" or so.  I definitely do love a good traditional quilt now and then.  Figuring out what to quilt just comes naturally.
 This has a wool batt too (single), and is stitched with ivory, red and green Glide threads.
 I have recently done an article about sashings (set to be published in a few months), so this quilt let me put some of the things I had thought about to good use.  These sashings are wider, and I wanted them to show.
 The feathered circles in the corners tie into the feathered circles I placed at the center of the flowers.  Choose motifs and repeat, I keep telling myself as I quilt.  This is how you bring continuity to a design.
 There are some other feathers on the ivory triangle border, but mostly it is pretty freehand quilting.
Here's a peek at a few of the "other" things I have been doing...  This is part of my daughter's quilt that she is making.  All I have been allowed to do is the rotary cutting and the ironing.  These are 8 of her 9 blocks (the center one has a piece of custom fabric designed and being printed by Spoonflower.  It has a 3" border, and will finish about 64" square.
Here's a staged layout of my next larger quilt, mostly silk.  These are the hand-pieced elongated hexagons that I started last October.  I had silk hand-dyed to match the blocks, and I am hand appliqueing the ribbon applique now.  I have just about half of it left to stitch.  It's on the larger size, a hair over 80", so the quilting will be quite time-consuming.  I haven't done one close to this large in nearly 2 yrs.
I have been also busily scribbling out quilting designs for a smaller (40") silk quilt.  That one may get started next month, as it will be faster.  You'll have to wait to see that though.

Stitch on~

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Audubon Christmas

Now that kids are out of school, I am working on whatever I can, whenever I can.  My only stipulation is that if I do custom quilts, they are on the smaller size.  No queen and king full customs before late August. This one is for one of my many California clients.  She wants to put it into a show in August, so I did my best to get the quilting done in time for her.  It should be arriving home today.  This is Kathy McNeill's Audubon Christmas pattern, which she made and showed on the circuit.  It is now available as a pattern from AQS.
 It is a rather aggressive applique pattern, but this client does lovely applique.  It is right in line with much of the work she has sent me for quilting.  A few months back she sent me the Baltimore Autumn applique quilt, which was drop-dead lovely.  This quilt may have been a kit -- I only wonder because the fabrics are wonderfully chosen for each applique.  They make the birds very lifelike.
 I quilted it similarly to the photos that are included with the pattern.  I might not typically do this much stippling, but it does help pop the detail stitching and appliques.
 Some of the areas where Kathy did detail stitching in colored thread, this client chose to do with embroidery.  This made my job a little simpler.  All I needed to do was some outline stitching.  The appliques are all ditched in a monofilament, while the majority of the quilting is done with white Glide thread.  The white fabric is Fairy Frost, which has a natural shimmer like snow.

 The quilt has one layer of wool batting.  I urge any and all quilters that make applique quilts to consider using wool.  The difference of this over cotton is oh-so evident.
 I think the cardinals are my favorite block.  There are some ghost leaves and feathers on this block.  The birds are really pretty.
Time for me to go find something productive to do :-)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The New Generation

Summer is officially here and I am getting so little done.  I had two work days last week, but I only did client quilting on one of them.  I spent some time this weekend working on one quilt, but not enough to keep my head above water.  I must prioritize the kids's needs and wants better and coordinate when they do things, when friends are over, etc so something is accomplished!  Easier said than done.

On Friday, one son had a friend to play with and the other was still at music camp.  It gave my daughter and I uninterrupted time to work on a new quilt project alone.  She picked up fabrics at MQX and Paducah, and all that was stopping her was me determining a simple enough pattern and time.  On this quilt, she is doing the piecing of the top also.  Last year's was pieced by me and quilted by her.  By doing her own piecing, she is (1) learning this part, and (2) she can enter it in many more shows -- more specifically Vermont next June, where they give sewing machines to all junior quilters!  Pretty sweet.
 She has some interesting black and white prints, a pretty ombre purple that came from Caryl Breyer Fallert's studio (a Paducah find), and some solids by Michael Miller that we have yet to stitch with.  The Couture Cottons are very nice solids.
This pseudo-Paris themed quilt has a fun Eiffel tower print, which she loved.  Don't really know how the zebra print worked into it, but it is there!   The other black print I had, and thought it looked rather Parisiene, so we fussy cut the design and ran with it.  The plan is to have a fancy star with a pink poodle (completed with rhinestone collar) as the center block.  It doesn't exactly sound beginner so I best be pondering how to do this simply.

I have done a few other quilts lately, but two can't be shown as they are going into client books.  Here's one from May though that I had not yet shown.  This client (I believe) made this as one of her first quilts.  It has great piecing and technique, and was fun to quilt.  It got lots of feathers and other frills.  Feathers are placed where they will show best, but with the paisley print, it is a waste of time to feather that~

Here's a look at some of the blocks...
 and a few more blocks...

 I have quilts at a show this weekend in Shipshewana, IN.  I got the word that both of them took home a nice 1st place.  The shows are great in that they keep food on our table during the times when it is challenging for me to do the larger client quilts.  Plus they feel my soul to be able to make this type of quilt.

Though I am busy, I welcome the edge-to-edge type quilts.  If you happen to have any tops that you might want an all-over type quilting on, I can definitely take those this summer.  Just drop me a comment or email.