Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Social Graces which Social Media Lacks

Where to begin.  Good question.  This past week seems like such a confusing mess still.  Apparently I offended a few people with my MQX post to the point of no return.  After several days of ignoring it, I took the post down Friday.  It goes against my grain to do this, but I have no earthly desire to make people I consider friends so obviously irate.  It's still "around" out there in the cache.  On a larger note why do some people allow themselves to get so involved into other people's business?   I want to scream to just go live your own life and stop slamming mine on social media to make yourself feel better.

To answer your question (and that is the rhetorical "you" that instigated this mess)...Why do people enter 3 quilts in quilt shows?  Does this really need answering?  Why do some people go to work and teach? Or be a nurse or a secretary? or go wherever you go during the day?  Good grief it ought to be an obvious answer, but somehow I am forever dragged into the muddy pit over the choice of doing so.  Plain and simple, it is a job.  Yup, a J-O-B, job.  Yes, I make quilts because I love the process of doing so.  But at the end of the day, I have 3 kids that need to eat, need clothes, need a house paid for each month.  I don't have a company-paid 401K anymore; I have to save for retirement.  See where this is going - It's a job.    Some people enter one or two, or yes, even three quilts at shows because they love to show their devotion to their craft.  And yes, I do it for that reason too.  But at the end of the day, any quilting time I spend not quilting for clients, I choose to spend working on other income-producing quilting endeavors.  

When this question was posed, I suspect it was just to be snotty, or as a disconnected segue for the main gripe.  My post apparently offended someone beyond the point of no return.   Let me get this off my chest now.  If you come to my blog and do not like or agree with my remarks, you do have a choice.  Nobody is forced at knife-point to read this blog, or to agree with everything said.   If you feel I have offended you, please do the grown up thing and just email me politely.  I am not difficult - I will very likely alter what is offending you.  My goal is to educate not alienate, honestly.  Rest assured, that being offensive is the farthest thing from my mind.   Going  to social media, however,  and slam-basting me there for something I wrote here is immature.  What is wrong with people that they cannot just speak to one another like civil adults anymore?  Facebook has become people's "bash your reputation with a stick" media.  Shame on you.  I am sorry if my words of 5 days ago offended someone, but seriously, it was not written as  a personal attack on anybody, not was it conceived as some way to make myself seem better, as you noted.

I did give a commentary on the last post of some of the quilts.  Never once did I EVER say that one of them was not worthy of what they earned, or that one was ugly, or whatever you think you may have read.  I know the makers and certainly respect them for their style, their skills and their quilts.   I respect how the three judges of the show chose to place the quilts, right down to their choices of selecting other quilts above my own.  I know this process well enough by now, and if there is ever a judge (or judges) that I trust, it is the ones MQX uses.  If you dislike that I disagree with the category in which the BOS was entered - so what.  Let's face it, that quilt is not a Daily Bed quilt.  It is higher end -- more detailed, more intricate, just plain more.  And it's creative and interesting and unique, as I said, and was slammed for.   I made remarks about the difficulty of quilting on heavily printed fabrics, how they are lovely in a quilt design, but challenging to quilt on.  The quilt shown has fantastic quilting, and I just longed to see it more.  Another quilt was stitched all in metallic thread -- it seemed like an unlikely choice to me, but (as is the case at most shows) the education was to show that it can be used effectively, even on a traditional quilt.  This is not derogatory, as I suspect it is being perceived.  Brown and other dark colors are very hard to quilt on and just as hard to have your quilting show.   When you quilt as beautifully as Jan, you want the quilting to show.  She has mastered use of metallic thread.  In my naive bliss, I rarely use metallic.

The beef was over the few comments made about the peacock whole cloth quilt.  It's a friend of the person who made this who went off the deep end with me.   Hell, it's made by a person I would have called a friend until this fiasco blew to Pluto and back.  Like the other quilts I showed, this one is amazingly beautiful too, AS I ALSO STATED.  Did I note that I hated that scalloped, beady one-of-a-kind edging?  NO.  Did I comment that the quilting was messy? NO.   No derogatory comments were intentionally made.  What the frig is so offensive here?  I made a note of the busily printed backing, which a white-glover showed to others as I happened to be passing by.  Something in me was just dying to see detailed stitching as she pulled back a corner.   I was surprised by the print. Just surprised.  Though my large quilt has a print, this is not my norm.   I simply commented about this one.  A comment.  Not a poke.  A comment.  For what it is worth, I enjoy and respect this particular quilter and her beautiful art quilts. She has a lovely, and creative viewpoint.

I want to go read a blog and not just see pictures.  I want it to give information and opinions about choices that were made.  It should be educational.  So many quilters out there have absolutely no idea about thread and batting and backing.  I get many comments from readers about the educational content of this blog; I don't intend to go back to anything else.   To interpret the last post as "Bitter quilter has nothing better to do that slam-baste the competition" is ludicrous.

I know I have come under scrutiny of being overly opinionated now and then.  I caught hell from several people after Houston.  I'd like to say I am sorry for sharing too much of what I was carrying around.  I had a personal moment at that show, and I let it show too vividly.

I am fine with quilters not agreeing with everything that another might have to say.  The time has come, though, for people to get out from behind this semi-anonymous social-media persona they have and deal with things first hand.  The cowardly bashing of something you may have misinterpreted has to end.  If something seems offensive, just say so, directly TO ME.  If you wouldn't say what you post on facebook to you neighbor, face-to-face, why would you say it there? We are all guilty of having days when the shit's just hit the fan and we snap and write something that we shouldn't, but this is too far.  If you think something is inappropriate, ask me about it, and  Grow Up.

Rant over.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Bouquet Royale goes to Show...Here's a look at the Making of it

Some of these pictures may well be repeats of another post.  My 3rd 2015 show quilt, which I named Bouquet Royale (after many agonizing weeks of wanting to name it something else which was a name by another quilter), is currently at MQX.  It is undergoing that scrutinizingly nerve-wracking judging process today which all too often leaves me here at home useless and unproductive.  Then again, the fact that I am leaving for MQX tomorrow does that too!  Anyhow, since I will know in a couple days how this quilt faired, and because the judges are essentially done with it, I am posting some "making" pictures about it.

In October 2013, about a week before I took off for Houston, I pulled these fabrics out of my stash. Clearly, I supplemented this stack with several others, but all prints are large-scale florals -- some Kaffe, some Philip Negley, Westminster, etc.  They are happy prints that I really love, and just didn't know what to do with.  A few weeks before starting this I had either quilted or was prepping to quilt a client's POTC (patchwork of the crosses).  I don't know what in me snapped to make me think I wanted to make one, but I did. 
 I drafted the elongated hexagon pattern to yield a 1" - 1-1/2" hexagon (it finishes to a 8-1/4" square), and decided to make these interesting, they'd be fussy cut.
Fussy-cutting makes for a ton of waste (below!), but it makes the design.  In some cases, I found that 1/2 yard of these large scale prints didn't even yield 8 identical pieces!  If you look closely, there may be times that one of the 8 are not quite identical.  Life goes on!
Here's some of the blocks...I had the Foxgloves in 3 colorways.  This chartreuse became a key color as the quilt evolved.
 The other color I love, is the orange/coral...or perhaps it is the combination of it and the purple that is so appealing.
 I didn't start this with a plan of any sort.  No design, nothing!.  I cut out blocks to hand stitch 25 of these.  Yea, I forgot to mention that these are all hand stitched - and not in the conventional EPP way (like what I showed a week or so ago).
 This next shot was about January 2014.
I can remember playing with the layouts during the February Olympics last year.  That is all 25 blocks finished, but they are not set in the silk yet.  Every one of these had silk triangles hand stitched to make them square.  That was fun (choke, choke!).
 Here are the center 9 -- yes the layout shown above was changed to place the orange/coral blocks near the center.  You know me, I can't choose a nice, easy 5x5 layout!  It would be too simple boring.
 Square corners?...nah.  Let's hand stitch some silk scallops.  LOL.  Actually this is reverse appliqued, so the green (which is a tighter weave like a batik) was what I appliqued.  Easier than it may look.
This green fabric, to this day is kind of my "doubt" of this quilt.  It coordinates very well with many of the greens in the blocks, but it still gives me consternation, and wonder if it really belongs.  It was hard to quilt because nothing shows easily on it.  I decided that was OK, because the quilting would show most visibly on the silk.  I'd need places to hide crap!

This layout shot is from late May 2014.  The center section is a unit, and there are 4 corner units, but no borders or applique yet.
 But I did have a plan!...I had sketched these "ribbons" and envisioned them being expertly appliqued in shades of hand-dyed green silk.  Slap me, I must be dreaming...Appliqueing the silk Radiance is not impossible, but it takes forever.   I had the right colors of silk - they had been bought as 2 gradient packs from Houston in 2013.  Problem was that I used much of them in a previous small silk quilt (go back a couple months to see The Jester's Folly).  I contacted Color By Hand in Newport, KY - for once I had kept a shop's contact info!  They are wonderful if you ever want custom dyed fabric, especially silk or sateen.  It took about a month, but I was fine because I knew these were the colors I needed.
I spent all summer hand appliqueing the green ribbons to the top - 56 ribbon pieces.  Silk does not let you hurry.   Not perfect, but done.
And if that was not enough, I decided it needed to pull the deeper coral color out to the border, so I added the very narrow shoe-string bows at each corner. Those were fun...tee hee.  Much to my surprise it was still pretty flat and square.  Can't say that happens on every one of my quilts, especially those mostly made by hand.  And this one was -- The 9 center blocks were sewed together by machine, as were the corner blocks, but everything else was done by hand.  At one point I added up the hours for just the top and it was over 400 hours, which is not really surprising.
So...we all know that nobody shows just a top at a quilt show.  This bad-boy needed to be quilted.  It is quilted with a cotton/poly batt and wool.  It also is stitched with 40wt Glide and silk threads.  Silk is for the areas I just want the texture, and Glide is for when I want to see that color a little.
********************edited to add******************
Note that this quilt was a guinea pig of sorts, in that I decided to try a Pellon wool batting.  I had read Kim Brunner used this and raved about it.  Normally I use either Hobbs or Quilter's Dream wools. Listen carefully - avoid that Pellon crap at all cost.  It bearded fiercely.  I thought I was going to cry.  It showed as it bearded through the dark green fabric.  I needed half a lint roller to get it ready to send and I still don't know how much more has migrated through since.  I still need to contact Pellon because this is flat out unacceptable.  It is a soft. pliable batting, with nice density, but bearding is a definite show stopper for me.************************************

Without further adieu, here is Bouquet Royale - all bound and ready to go.
Closeups...the silk fabric doesn't ever let down when showing of great texture.  This is the center. Because the central part of the quilt is really a 9-patch of blocks, I needed to do something to set the real "center" off.  I used the 4 green setting squares sort of, but also, the quilting around the center block differs from others.  All stitching here with the exception of the linear linework on the champagne silk is done in the Glide - Prickly Pear was the color, which is a chartreuse shade.
All 25 of the blocks were quilted similarly.  I designed this quilting to draw away from the fact these are hexagon blocks, and attempt to make them look more floral.  There is a flower at the centers, with leaves coming off next.  The cross-hatching is textural, but represents the spider web of the garden. The quilting design of these is complex and I believe it gives them a pretty finish.
A finished corner...
At times, it felt like a game of "how much thread can I stitch".  This is an 80" quilt, and it has been a couple years since I have wrestled something so large.  They definitely take a long time!  The intersections of the blocks (above) got tiny silk circles hand stitched after the quilting was started. These are not a coverup, but an after-thought.  This section after I quilted it just reminded me of those old-fashioned silk pillows with tufted buttons.  I may change out the purple circles to champagne silk too (just didn't get around to it!).  I don't know what else to say about the quilting...It is all original designs, hand guided, and by all means I will absolutely NEVER do that parallel lne crap ever EVER again.  Or if I do, it will be on some funky angle, and not in a space with non-parallel pieces, where the quilting must appear parallel!
Here's a shot of the crazy border.  It's 11" at its widest point.  Next time I will not choose such a well matched green.  It was hard to see what I was doing.  Except for the stitching of the flowers (which do have silk centers), it is silk.
 Last pic...piped and scalloped binding.  I shouldn't even admit how long this took, but I will anyway...To make the piping, prepare the edge and attach the piping and binding...12 hours.  To hand stitch the binding down to the back...another 25 or so.  Insane.  And then it required another blocking to get it to lay properly.  Hopefully, but hopefully, I will see it hanging nice and flat on Wednesday. Fingers crossed.
I have no idea how this will do, nor do I know what other good quilts are in this same category.  I am just anxious to get some trustworthy feedback on the quilt.  I know it is unique and different, and hope it will be received with the same joy with which it was made.  Come to MQX and see this, as well as my other two that are at the show.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ode to Spring

This is a crazy time of year for me.  Kids are busy with school. And I am taking off for 5 days next week to teach 4 classes and attend MQX in Manchester, NH.  I think I am mostly ready for my classes, but those thoughts of doubt always creep in.  I don't like surprises much so I have spent a lot of time thinking of lots of different scenarios for the classes.

This is also the time of year I typically start to quilt one of next year's show quilts too.  The kids' summer vacation (though hard to envision with a foot of snow STILL on the ground) is less than 3 months away, and my quilting comes to a screeching halt then for a few weeks.  Now's the time to get that show quilt started - especially good idea since the one I am ever-so-slowly piecing on is not anywhere close to done yet!

I have started a lavender silk whole cloth that for the time being I will call Ode to Spring.  The name may change, but right now, this seems good.  I drew the design iteratively over 2-3 months, on a 8-1/2" x 11" piece of paper.  It was heading in a slightly different direction, when the brick wall seemed to lift, and I decided that it looked good with flowers on it.  Sometimes fighting a design you are trying to make work just isn't worth it.  So I take the 45degree triangle that I draw the design on, and mirror/copy the design until I have a square design.  At that point, it is obvious where I want changes to the design.  I had Staples blow up 1/4th of the design to a 30" square.  The quilt should finish slightly over 60".  Here's a peek at one corner...
The fabric is a gorgeous purple, but is sure is difficult to get the blue pen visible.  I went through about 6 of the blue washout pens transferring the design.  I had to use the light-box attachment to my dining room table (AKA - replace the leaf with plexiglass and a light) to transfer it.  The last whole cloth I did which was ivory was MUCH easier to transfer because the design showed through the fabric!  Notice the hot pink at the bottom?...that is the backing!  I abandoned the prints this time.  A whole cloth just needs the courage of a solid backing.  Assuming the tension stays good, this will gain me something, someday, in the judging.
And on Thursday morning last week, the needle hit the fabric...Right now, I am stitching the major motifs -- basically what is marked on the design.  The backfillers won't be done immediately.  I have a deep rose, dare I call it fuscia, 40wt Glide thread.  I like being able to see the thread, and it will tie on to the pink backing.  Backfills will likely be done witn 100wt matching (lavender) silk thread.

Top border has what is probably my favorite spring tree - dogwood.  We don't have these up north, and is one thing I so look forward to seeing in Paducah in 3 weeks.  This flower is quintessential southern.

The scrolly motifs are painfully slow to stitch, doing some of them with templates to keep the curves smooth.  Many areas inevitably get ripped out due to my anal nature.  They will look awesome when the fills get done to really pop them.
 These ones are in each corner (below).  They are deceptively large.  There is also a proverbial ton of stop and start, knot and bury here too.  It is definitely a "what was I thinking" type of design!
The design has some flowers -- tulips, petunias, a sunflower and the dogwoods, and lots of leaves worked into the feathering.  The scrollwork and the lacy frames give it a light sense.  You can see one of the dragonflies (above) - I am holding off stitching these because they may be done in a different thread.  I'll come back to them.
There's the center!  I am past the center today, but not far enough that I will reach the bottom tomorrow.   Getting closer though.  I am back to the corner designs which are very tedious!

I'm not sure when I will have more of this to show, but happily it is started.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hand Piecing

I find myself in that awkward stage between projects, where one quilt which took what seemed forever to hand piece/applique/bind is actually mailed off to its first show, and another is waiting to be started.  In all honesty, I have been busy with plenty of client quilts, samples and preparations to teach at MQX too.  But another problem is creeping in that makes my days frustrating and miserable. I am sleeping horribly.  It's been a combination of everything from general discontent, to kids stressing me out, to just wanting to run away and live somewhere warmer.  At night, I get my kids into bed, and proceed to fall asleep in my chair.  I awaken at 10, and go up to bed, only to lay there for hours trying to fall asleep again.  By dawn I am ragged.  I believe part of this problem is because I fall asleep between 8 and 10pm, is time to dream up a hand stitching project.  I am not sure that this will matriculate into a show quilt, but as I am plagued with issues of perimenopause, it will hopefully address the sleeping prematurely issue.

Last year I did the elongated hexagon blocks, and actually enjoyed the process and portability of these.  I decided this year to dig out some of the large-scale floral and mostly modern prints that I have been hoarding for 3-5 years, not knowing what to do with.  As I migrated into show quilts, these bold and colorful prints became harder and harder to use.  I learned with my last quilt (which I will fully reveal in 2 weeks just before MQX) that they can be successfully used on a show quilt.

I have a plastic template for a 1" hexie block.  I stake no claim to being so crazy as to make 1/2" hexagons.  That would take my lifetime to complete, and it would be torturous to quilt.  I still have to consider that this needs to showcase machine quilting, so it will have sufficient background space for that when it is done.  

Here are a few of the first blocks I cut out...I am using predominantly orange, pink, green and aqua prints.  Something about these colors just sings.
More mess...I mean "blocks.
The first one I hand pieced is here.  Let me show you how I do these, because it is different from the typical English Paper Piecing that most folks do, that requires those annoying cardboard papers and basting.  That, in my opinion, is for the birds.  My way is easier.
Here's the template I happen to have.  Like most quilters, we hoard things and then wonder why on earth we bought it (that was 2 yrs ago).  Low and behold, I actually found it in my studio last week! It makes a finished 1" hexagon.  Below it is an actual 1" hexagon, in template plastic.
 I use the large template to place where each fussy-cut block will be cut out of the fabric.  The actual size template is used to draw a pencil line on the backside of the fabric hexagon.  This is my hand-stitching line.  It takes a lot longer to baste a hexagon than to draw a line.
My primary motivation for using this method is this...I hate the papers; I'd rather handle bare fabric. AND I really dislike the look of whip-stitched hexagon blocks.  I do not want the stitching to show, whatsoever.  Below is what I do.  Using pins, I align 2 hexagons.  I then do a small running stitch only where the line is (do not go into the seam allowance).  I stitch 2-3 stitches (aka 3/16") in the opposite direction at the start and stop of each seam, before knotting.  My seams are very secure, and invisible, my word of today.
The piece is a little messy looking as the hexagons are being added, but that is fine.  I dont press as I go, as it is not needed.  It is actually easier to work with the angled seams if you don't.
 Here's the first block.  It took about 4-1/2 hrs to hand stitch, and maybe 45 minutes to cut out.
 The back is pressed nice and neat also...
 Seams are not pressed open as they would be with using the papers.  It is a better alternative for quilting.
 This one will be a bit bold.  I have a little travel coming up next month, so having something small to work on is handy.
Lunch break is I must get back to the chores at hand!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pretty Stars

I am slow posting some of last month's quilts because it has been quite hectic around here.  MQX is 3 weeks out - just around the corner.  I am teaching 4 sold out classes, and I have been furiously getting all class materials worked out.  This quilt is by the same client that sent me this quilt in January.  It is made from, not surprisingly, many of the same taupes.  I like how she combines colors and fabrics - this has a very pretty look. 
It's (going om memory) about 75" square, has wool batting and Glide threads.  The piecing has nice movement.
Quilting this challenged my need (or maybe it is just a desire) to be perfect.  The client specifically wanted it custom quilted.  BUT like some quilts, it has some most obvious challenges like the fact that many "circles" were not really pieced to yield a neat circle, and the squares on point were, well, point-less much of the time.  I gave up the notion of ditching the squares, because this accentuates that they are not actually squares.  The meandering feather (I think) draws the eye away from the piecing.  Not every quilter shares my anal need to have points in tact, but they all need to have a good way to be quilted.
 Imperfect piecing sometimes yields quilting that is also imperfect, as I have below.  The circles aren't perfectly round, but I think it still has a nice movement, and I tried to draw your eye from the flaws and to the diamond at the center of each star.
 The back is the gem.  You don't have the piecing as a reference to the quilting.  It is just pure and sweet texture.  I love this.
 And the border...
This will go home to it's owner in a few days, and I think that she will like the finished look.

Now, with 2-1/2 weeks until I leave for MQX, I am just dealing with the daily things...taxes (yes, the dreaded taxes after a very successful year at the shows are in a word, frightening!), I am marking a new whole cloth, also marking some class pieces my students will quilt.  I have one small sample to whip up on scalloped binding, and a couple of articles to try to get a jump on.  Nothing big, there!...And then the usual duties of my son's birthday, another stupid holiday (not a fan of Easter), and all the homework and kid running around that 3 kids require.  I wish I could say MQX will be like a vacation, but not quite :-)

My whole cloth won another 1st place at AQS Lancaster last week.  It, along with 2 other quilts, will be at MQX.  This will be their first "real" outting where they are judged with an emphasis on machine quilting.  This is the first show that truly matters to me as a quilter.  The others are great, and the wins are fantastic, but this one will give me the feedback about my quilting that I so love.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Another Baltimore Autumn

Admittedly, I am behind on posting currently quilted quilts here on my blog.  I have been busy quilting, writing, prepping stuff for teaching and other kid related stuff.  I realized it was time to repost.  

Remember the Baltimore Autumn I did last spring - April or May...It was lovely.  It was some of the best needle-turn applique I have seen.  And that quilt went to win the BOS at the Napa County Fair, a pre-qualifier for the California state Fair this year.  Well, I knew when this quilt came it would be a big job with loads of applique.  But this quilt is actually fused applique.  The edges have been either blanket stitched or straight stitched.  I have already spoken with the owner, but I will broach the subject here.  Fused applique can be done very successfully, but please...please do not just layer it upon layer upon another layer.  Eventually it becomes the quilter's equivalent of formica.  Yes, places of this were dang near as thick as a countertop.
 I went into the ditching of the appliques with extreme caution.  I had just had my machine serviced/retimed and the tech had found this "gunk" near the basket which he figured had to be from fusible.  I do next to no fusible quilts, BUT my silk quilts do have a lightweight fusible on them.  I was pretty wary after seeing that about starting another fused quilt.
 It did turn out to stitch ok.  There were surprisingly no thread breaks or shredding as I anticipated.  Thicker areas do not tension consistently, but that is to be expected and I can't do anything about it.  A quilt hanging on one's home wall is no big deal.  You wouldn't want to quilt a show quilt like that.
 I did try to make the motifs used on this quilt different from the one I did last year.  They are equally pretty.  If you remember, the first client did not want any feathers.  This quilt was definitely getting feathers!
Feathers and leaves.  I like this simple leafy border.

Fused applique never has the poof that needle-turn will have.  It is inherently flatter.  The client was very happy though when this came home.  She had started it several years ago, and knew that there were better applique/fusing methods to use, but chose to finish it the way it was started.  It will be pretty hanging in her home!