Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Twisted Sister

WARNING...this is a total photo bomb.

It is Sunday.  I am finally getting photos of my newest show quilt which I call The Twisted Sister loaded to my blog to show.  After judging is completed, I will launch this post on Tuesday.  This quilt is at MQX.  Though I have shown some pictures of it during construction, I realize it has been a good long while.  Plus, somewhere in this process, I got superstitious, and opted to keep finished photos under my hat until it made it's first show debut.  

It is at MQX.  Midwest that is.  This is my first time going to this show anywhere but in NH, and I am teaching a full load of mostly sold-out classes.

I know what you are thinking.  "I have seen these fabrics before".  Well, sorta yes. My "Bouquet Royale" quilt that came out a year and a half ago, had similar colors - orange and green.  It was fussy-cut hexies, albeit a different type, but similar none the less.  The backgrounds are both champagne silk.  I even had the green silk dyed to match one of the greens that was used before.  Sometimes when you have colors and fabrics that you really love, it is extremely difficult to completely reinvent the wheel.
"The Twisted Sister" is different though.  A lot different.  These are traditional hexagons rather than the elongated hexies (Lucy Boston type).  I loved the process of hand-piecing them the first time, so I started on another quilt.
Around October of last year, I had all 21 of these clusters pieced.  Actually, I made 24, and the final design ended up not needing 3.  Each one takes about 5 hours to select fabrics, cut the pieces and hand stitch each hexagon.

 I love how they are all really different, and dont really resemble the fabrics they came from.  I don't use the hexagon paper pieces, or whip stitches.  I trace the line where I want to stitch and put a running stitch there.  That way I can press them however works for machine quilting.  There are few things that irk me as a machine quilter as all open seams.  They may make the quilt lay flatter (really they do not!), or so the piecer thinks, but they compromise the quilts's integrity by putting inherent stress on the seam, and the open seam means it cannot be ditch stitched.  My show quilts must allow for ditching.

It's an understatement to say that this quilt went together without a plan.  In June of 2015, I had a wild thought of using the zebra print on the blocks.  I never really intended for this quilt to finish looking like its predecessor.  I don't think I ever really thought they were all that similar at this point in the making.  I was feeling a bit wild at the time, and was clearly not thinking whatsoever about HOW I would quilt that crap!  This quilt would need some serious calming for it to be remotely competitive.   And the jury is still out on that point, since MQX is it's first outing.
The hexie clusters were appliqued onto the zebra pieces.  Because the zebra print was also fussy cut, it had bias all over the place -- not exactly what you want on the outer edges!  It got a major dose of starch until I decided what to do with these.
From the zebra, came some bright pink and orange stars.  The outer fabrics were Cotton Couture, which is pretty in color, but my problem was that I loved the pink and orange, BUT it just did not look good on the more blue and green hexie clusters.  Around this point, too, I had decided I wanted to use the champagne silk as the background.  No way was I using black, even if it would look good. I'd just quilted "Illuminations" which has deep black/navy batik as a background, and it was harder than I want to deal with.  On top of that, the quilting more or less disappears.   My aging eyes don't appreciate quilting the darker fabrics at all.  The quilting on this needed to show (since it was going to be a challenge to get it to show on the blocks).
Despite all the work invested, I ripped off the orange and pink points, and ordered the green silk (below)...I knew this matched all blocks beautifully, even if I had used this color on Bouquet Royale.
These points were made with Sharon Schamber's stabilizer, which I had never used until then.  I had decided though, that I did not want to hand applique these stars to the silk.  I'm not a machine appliquer either, but there is one time to try!  It all looks good in the above photo, but I will never do either again.  I hate that stabilizer - it is stiff, and alters the hand of the silks.  I am not good (IMHO) at machine applique.  In fact, I added hand appliqued black perle cotton around all of these to hide the stitching.  In hindsight, the black thread is a fantastic accent, but I don't like to always be in the cover-your-butt mode.

How the quilt would be finished was a 1-2 month quandary.  I had this orange silk dyed, only to discover I disliked the color with the quilt.  I was fortunate and found some discontinued orange (rust) silk that was an ideal color.  The lighter orange was saved for another project.  Great color...wrong quilt.

Fast forward to what felt like a forever number of months...and here is the finished quilt (with the right orange on the inner twist border).

I can't say exactly how many hours I spent quilting it, but it went onto the frame in February.  It came off for the final time in August.  It was off and on several times between those months.  There would be things I didn't know what to do, and I couldn't hold up quilting client quilts until it came to me.  If you want to learn more about quilting these blocks and busy prints, pick up the next Machine Quilting Unlimited edition -- My bimonthly column is all about quilting busy prints.  It is out early November.
How to quilt the zebra was one stumbling block.  I hate having a fabric that you just can not get the quilting to show on. What I did shows beautifully on the backside, but not so much on the front.  Life goes on.
As much as I really wanted to go easier, and put a very busy print on the back, I bellied up, and went with this tea-bag sateen.  It is gorgeous from the back, BUT it really makes you as a quilter have to get all starts and stops and tension as good as you can.  Judges have an easy road map to your mistakes otherwise.  If nothing else, I hope it tells the judges that I am not afraid to "put it all out there".  This is the best I can do, and I want them to see it.  If they find something, so be it. I didn't try to hide anything.
This is the center.  The silk is slightly lighter to use both the color and the quilting to draw the viewer's eye towards the center.
My decision to go with the silk background was a good one.  Nothing shows off the quilting better than silk Radiance.  Nothing.  The light catches the texture like no other material. To say I am addicted is an understatement.
Some of you may remember the June saga, which involved hand sewing on 126 of these tiny silk circles -- onto an already finished quilt!  It's much easier to do it on a flimsy, and I was most thankful for a couple of cooler weeks, since this 10lb quilt was in my lap.  I think they add a touch of whimsy.

Another thing I try hard to do when designing quilting is to bring the essence of the quilt into the quilting.  These ARE hexagons.  I wanted the quilting to pay homage to that fact, so I discretely placed hexies into the quilting.  They are a detail you may miss from across the room, but upon close inspection, they add to the cohesiveness of the piece. The devil is in the details, and quilts win and lose ribbons on details.
What's in a name?...

"The Twisted Sister" is a little wild.  She is a little different.  She is named for the creatively crazy use of zebra fabric, and the twisty ribbon that surrounds her.  She is also kin to her sister quilt, Bouquet Royale because of similar techniques, colors and fabrics.  They are made of the same genetics, but have minds of their own.
I lost count at about 800 hours.  I had to reblock the quilt because the flipping zebra fabric of all things bled black dye.  That didn't thrill me at all.  The hot water soak forced some fabrics to have a touch more pucker than I like, but pucker is WAY better than dye!

I know that the binding sucked up a TON of time too.
We all love backs, so here are a few looks.

(there are a few crystals back there on the off chance she hangs at a few shows where both the front and back are visible)
On to the binding... It is not your typical binding.  You guys should know by now that I never take the easy road.  I am always up for a challenge - finding something that perhaps has not been seen to maybe set this quilt apart from all the other hexagon quilts.

The first plan was this would be a scalloped edge with two pipings - green and black silk.  That part seemed easy enough, considering that I have done a dual-piping scallop edge on Illuminations.  The only difference is that was cotton batik.  Trust me, silk is a little more persnicketty.
 And, as planned, here went the silk binding.  What I didn't pan for though was how unflat and bad it would look.  No, not bad, horrible.  On to plan B...
What on earth is Plan B, I thought?...
Plan B turned out to be a black binding, but out of black batik, rather than silk.  The batik is tight, and tends to make very good bindings.  Furthermore, even the black silk is low sheen so I doubted that it would be immediately noticeable that it was cotton and not silk.  It may be noticed that some crazy nut used a black piping beside a black binding, and they will likely scratch their head on that thought.  I know it seems strangely overkill.  BUT there was no way I was picking off the piping because from the backside it was very hard to know which seam was for which piping.  It was just simpler to leave it and move on.  It layed nicely, but perhaps was not the most logical color choice.  Duly noted.
Now comes the fun part... Or perhaps that is just sheer foolishness, she said with a snicker.
I made a lot of those. And then I auditioned what to do with them.  The trash can definitely came into the list of possibilities!
 At first I was thinking about twisting them, but that was just beyond nuts.
 This is what I settled on.  It's a little simpler, but just the right finish.
These are added to a facing which is hand-stitched to the backside of the quilt after the entire binding was stitched down.  I considered just gluing the binding, but decided that if the loopy shit failed, I'd better have a fall back position that was actually finished.  This was definitely not fast, probably 25 hours to go around the quilt.  And then the other side of the facing still needed to be hand stitched down.  All in all, if the binding took under 125 hours, I'd be shocked. Must.go.simpler.next.time!
I'll show a couple more pictures, but if you want to see more, get yourself to Springfield, IL this week, or it's next showing at Road to California.  Fingers crossed she does well.
 Twisting motifs are abound...keeping true to the name.

If you made it to here...thanks!  I know there are a lot of pictures and a lot of words.  Part of me feels like I've been holding out showing this quilt and describing the fun I had creating it. Just hope that the judges had a good time looking at it too.
Monday ... (no, this is not yet posted, as I was waiting for judging to be done) - the nervous superstitions are huge right now!  I just saw this posted by a fellow MQX friend, who happens to be in the judging room.  Oh to be a fly on the wall in that room!  I might feel better about how the quilt did if they were smiling.
Tuesday...I was fast asleep last night when an email came in saying that this quilt has won an award.  I won't know what it is until tomorrow evening, but either way, it is better than a kick in the teeth.  This is a great day!  Hope you have one too~

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Finish

I'm not sure how this happened, but I have managed to get this blog on a list of top 100 quilting blogs.  Here's some others if you want good reads...http://blog.feedspot.com/quilt_blogs/

 I finished my last custom quilt for a little while.  It was made by Carol, and will be shipping home very soon.  It is quilted with a wool batting, and 60wt ivory thread.  This is a great thread for dense stitching, as it is extremely fine.  With as much applique as is on the quilt, I didn't want to overwhelm the quilt with thread.
 The lighting the day I took these was a tad flat, but the texture is really pretty.  The square on point secondary pattern is very prevalent.
 Believe it or not, the hardest thing on this quilt were the pesky little 9-patches.  They are so thick, that it was challenging quilting over and around them.
 Backs on quilts like this are always gorgeous, and this one is no exception.  It has a soft ivory solid that just shows off the texture.
In just 1 week, I will be enroute to Springfield, IL for MQX.  My classes are sold out, and I am as prepared as I can be, short of packing a suitcase.  My new quilt is on a trailer being transported to the show.  As soon as judging is done, I will post several photos of this new quilt so all can see.  Fingers are crossed that she does well.

Monday, October 03, 2016

It is October

Hard as it is to believe, 2016 has 3 more months.  I have 4 more quilt shows this year.  Four.  And then it is the 3 month waiting game until the January shows begin again.  This is a time when I should be further along with projects for next year, but that is just life.  I have one quilt which is at the same point today as it was 10 months ago.  I am hoping to resurrect this in November when I return from Houston, and actually get it finished by April.  It is possible, with a bit of focus.

Focus and time have been my biggest distractions.  I work for a short time on something, then put it down, quilt a few client quilts, go to teach, and then try to pick up where I left off, but I find myself stuck or disinterested.  I need to push my projects through these stumbling blocks, not allowing them to go into unfinished boxes.  I have always been a great starter.

That said, I did finish my quilt The Twisted Sister.  If you are scratching your head and wondering what this is, be patient.  It has gone with my buddies that run MQX, getting the extra-special courier service transport to MQX in Springfield, IL.  They sure are great that way!  This quilt was about 18 months in the making, and I really love how it finished.  I will definitely show some photos in 2 weeks.  It has the hand-pieced, fussy-cut hexagon stars set on silk (the one that took 3 months to do the binding...you are thinking "oh...that one!").

Back in the mid-summer, during a week when I just needed a distraction, I pieced some orange/pink log cabin blocks.  For whatever reason, this pattern has been on my bucket list for a while.  Ten days ago, I decided to draft the design for the applique border.  It is crazy complex, but it will be amazing when done.  I'm not sure where the quilting will go, but that is a detail for another day.
The flowers and leaves partly come from the 4 applique blocks I already did that are on the center  (maybe if you scroll back a few weeks you will see), but some of the leaves and flowers are new too.  There are LOTS of pieces to prep!
 I used a freezer paper prep for the center section, but it was a total pain to remove the paper.  I even stabbed my pointy scissors thru one of the applique patches, so...I opted to use a Templar and starch method for ALL of the appliques of the border.  It takes forever, but once they are prepped, they can be stitched when I am ready.  FYI - the white background is just paper.  The actual fabric is to be ivory silk Radiance.
This was from last week.  I have a few more pieces prepared.  None of the stems and vines are done, naturally, since they'd be the first to be stitched down!  As I got the border to this point, I could see all of the flowers, and colors and textures working together.  Believe me, I love this so much.  But (and there is always a BUT!)...I somehow needed to bring the brighter shades of green into the center of the quilt (here is the before...http://quiltsoflove.blogspot.com/2016/09/back-in-swing-of-things.html, just scroll down a bit in the post).  So the border prep got put on hold last weekend, and in between passes of a large E2E for a client, I pondered how to brighten this.

I chose to add a brighter green sequence of arches around the flower applique blocks.  There are still 4 of the arches not prepared.  I also added the green wreath of leaves at the center.  Bringing the eye to the middle focal of the quilt is always critical with my designs - whether you choose to do this with the piecing, the color, the quilting, or all of the above.  I think this fits the bill, even if it means I created an extra 25 hours of work for myself! I love the handwork.

I need to take a few days off to do a client quilt, then get myself ready to travel.  And maybe I will also get some handwork prepped to take with me on my trips.  I have something like 150 tiny dots to prepare, sigh.

So, as I joke, maybe in 2019 you will get to see this finished :-)

Friday, September 23, 2016

My Last Ladies of the Sea

This is my 5th Ladies of the Sea quilted in the last 12 months.  It will be my last for a while.  The amazing applique artists that send me these quilts are wonderful, but I need a good 6 month break, This is a grueling 2-week quilt to quilt.  After a while the amount of detail work required to carefully quilt around each and every applique starts to make your back, arms and neck tired.  So if you are out there and think you want your's quilted, you can inquire with me, but it will be into 2017 before I actually will quilt it.

This is by one of the students of the person that did the 2nd one I quilted (see Dec 2015).  The applique and embroidery on this Ladies is absolutely phenomenal.  There's not a stitch to be seen, or a thread out of place.  It is THE kind of quilt I'd want to get if I were collaborating on a show quilt with somebody - no issues whatsoever! The hardest part of my job is determining what to do to make it different and unique from the others.  I made small tweaks from previous plans.
I introduced a lovely pink-purple variegated thread on the feather work to help tie the central part of the quilt to the stars in the corners.  From afar, the colors don't really show, but up close, it is this.
 The feathers create a lovely secondary pattern for the background, breaking up the fact that it is just sashed squares.
 The ship blocks are essentially the same as what I have done before.  It works, and I just could not reinvent this wheel in a better way.  Some quilts are like that.
 The variegated thread is also on the backfill around the mariner stars.
 I wish I could count the many hundred little dots that are on this quilt.  This is a mere small section of one border, and there are 42!  Too many!...
 And a few shots of the gorgeous backside...  The bobbin thread for the clear ditchwork is actually a sage green, and it shows the outline of everywhere I quilted beautifully.  Normally I choose a thread best matching the background fabric, but this time I ventured out!

That's all folks!...Have a good weekend