Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Cut or not to Cut?

That is my question to you.

So what am I talking about, you wonder? If you applique traditionally (aka needle-turn), do you subscribe to the philosophy of those that prefer to leave their background fabric in tact, OR do you believe in carefully snipping away the excess backing fabric? When I was a "younger" quilter, I never would have cut the fabric for fear I'd mis-cut or that the piece might fall apart. After all, if the applique were to come off of the quilt, there would be a huge hole, rather than a spot of backgorund. In my more recent years, and because I have done much hand quilting in my life, I firmly believe that trimming away the background fabric beneath the applique is the best recipe for a nice, smooth quilt. But as I said, I want your opinion.
I just finished quilting a lovely applique quilt for a client which had no trimming. Did it turn out pretty? Sure. But was it a bit hard to quilt at times? Absolutely. I had to tailor how I quilted it around how many layers of appliques there were, even though I was quilting on a commercial longarm machine. At some point, too much is just too much. If there are 3 appliques on top of eachother, there are likely places with at least 6 layers of bulk. It is hard to have accurate control of the machine when the thickness wavers from 2 layers to 6 layers and back again.

What you are looking at here is my applique quilt (the back of it!). I showed the quilt a few posts ago, but have just gotten to trimming behind the appliques because quilting is immenent. I have a few places where there are several layers - where flower petals overlap or where the bias strips start and stop. I just want not to be limitted in how I quilt this, and excess bulk is limitting. I leave about 1/4" to 3/16" of the background fabric. This is typical of a normal seam. I also make certain to NOT cut through any rows of hand stitching without going back and taking an inch or so of very close stitches, and ending with knots to properly secure the seam. I also chose to handle the piece very gently until it is quilted. It definitely does help too if you tend to take rather small stitches when initially applying the appliques.
If you notice, too, (below) the area underneath the plum flowers is pieced with quarter circles. If there any seams underneath an applique, then I will always trim that away. Despite quilting this with a wonderfully lofty wool batting, seams will undoubtedly show if the applique is quilted on. The goal is to have a quilt top that has the same number seams as a purely pieced top.
And so, again, I pose the question to those of you that needle-turn applique. Do you "cut or not cut" away your backing fabric? And why?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hard to Imagine...

I, personally, love to applique -- the traditional way, needle turning every edge, and by hand. But even I have a hard time imagining that anyone can applique THIS much! This quilt came to me earlier this month, and is a block of the month pattern called Affairs of the Heart. It's gorgeous, truly exquisite. If the applique is not enough, all of the gold/yellow filigree is stem stitched. Holy Cow!
So I guess it is no wonder why the carpal tunnel in my right arm is acting up a bit. I spent an insane amount of time doing very careful outlining and detail quilting as neatly as I could. I opted to simply stipple the black background because, honestly, I didn't think it would show that much. It is funny how it never really shows much until it is taken OFF of the frame! I really just wanted the background quilting to disappear and let the appliques show.
The quilt has wide - 8" borders. In honor of the BOM name, and the fact that nearly each block has hearts on it, I did a feathered heart on each side of the wide border in a red variagated rainbow thread. I carried the red color through as ribboning along the spines of the border's feathering. The borders are a touch busy, but I think that they relate to the quilt.
I have discovered that Rainbows "Rain Forest" is one of my favorites. I used it on the feathering here as well as on a previous batik quilt. I also used an orange variagated on the appliques.
Quilt backs always take on a life of their own, which is neat. On this one, the bobbin was black throughout, so it just appears as texture. You can see the border quilting and something different for each of the blocks -- all 36 of them!
Since I love the many blocks so much, I will show several of them here.
I outlined around the yellow embroidery filigree, and quilted on the flower petals.

I quilted along the swirls on the green hearts and around the white ones.

This one has more quilting on the appliques themselves, along several petals, around the green and on the hearts.

You get the idea...
I like this one - like flaming & colorful artichokes. Appropriate since the quilt was mailed back to California today :-)

The colors here are so vibrant - I love that all the heart-y petals are different colored.

It is ever so pretty, and most detailed. I have to gear up for the next wave of quilts after my daughter has surgery next week. We are beginning to prepare ourselves for a week of high stress, little-to-no sewing, and probably the same for our sleep. She is having a 2nd surgery on her feet to correct for having been born with damned club feet. It really sucks. She's my shining angel, the absolute sweetest of all little girls. It just kills me to have to put her through this ordeal at age three. Wish us all luck-

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Two Lines, 2 Seconds of Fame and a LONG Rant!

Today I went to a Project Linus Blanket event. It was the first our chapter has held in over 2 years. There was a lot of hype leading up to it. We really needed to get the word out again after the 18 month hiatus without a coordinator. We are severely in need of having blankets made by volunteers to supply to the various hospitals. Many (MANY) people devoted this day and many others leading up to today to getting ready for it. I made 2 quilts for them, one which will be raffled in May and one to be raffled at a later date. I also scurried in the last few weeks to finish 4 other donation quilts. If ever there was a charity deserving a good word, this is it.

And if my quilting business got a small ounce of promotion from the events, well, that's just icing on the cake.

Last Wednesday, a person from the local newspaper called and did a phone interview. We talked for 10-15 minutes. I was told she received a picture of the May raffle quilt, which I assembled and quilted. She asked about it, and other more poignant things. But, a mere mention that Project Linus HAS a quilt to be raffled off was one of the goals of the article. Afterall, we want and need to get money to buy fabrics and to host events. Well... the article came out a couple days ago. And here's my 2 lines of fame (within the article). Whoo-hoo...I let this go up about to my big toe (no worries about it being so good so as to go to my head!). No picture of the raffle quilt. No mention of much, really. Fluff, I tell you, fluff. And not too much fluff at that. That won't sell raffle tickets; that is for sure.

So today is the Show. You come in the door. There is a Meet & Great table, and a sign about a raffle. Inside, there are a couple of "real" vendors - quilt shops, and a pseudo vendor (aka "ME" - passing out business cards and showing pictures of 12-18 of my quilts, in addition to the 3 I brought). And there are 50 small quilts on display in the chapel. These are nice because this is very representative of what is donated. What are most people doing?...rummaging the "flea market" of nearly free used quilt books, patterns and scraps of fabric! Where is this alleged raffle quilt that they want to sell tickets for...that she just had to have???? On the backside of the "yard sale", being managed by someone's non-sales oriented husband. Yup, a man. Just perfect. I don't think he realized he was actually supposed to SELL the tickets. I am more than insulted that I have donated this quilt and it may go to someone and Linus will only net $50 for it! Hell, I'd charge $125 just to quilt it if Joe Blow came to me off the street!

In the early afternoon, I realized a local news station was there. He was talking to the coordinator, and someone else from an area hospital. She introduced me to him and he interviewed me about what I do, my involvement, why I sew for Linus, etc...maybe 2-3 minutes. Afterall, I have made over 100 quilts in the last 3 years. This interview had the raffle quilt as the background. He later took some still shots from my "booth". I recorded the news because we went out to dinner. This drivel is what I came home to see. Unbelievable. The"reporting" person was NOT the person doing the interview. She (Caroline Cornish) obviously cut 95% of the material he taped to suit her wishes. She was not even present at the event. So when you look at this 39 second news clip, the credit I deserve are for the 2 still shots of quilts, which can be seen here and here clearly. And they are in no way indicative of anything that Project Linus gets as donations! Ironic!


Sigh......I warned you it was a rant!

Have a good Sunday :-)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


This is my week off from school/teaching, but it is technically not a vacation for the local elementary schools. Do I hear "Yea!"?... Yah, right. At 6am Monday morning, my husband started puking. He stayed home that day. It's not that he's all that much of a problem, but that I couldn't do all those things that are usually done on a Monday like vacuuming & other noisy chores...playing princess and dancing with my sweet 3 year old. So at noontime, I got a call from the school saying I needed to pick up my 7yr old. I immediately took him to a clinic, discovered he has yet another ear infection, and proceeded to blow a good hour of usual sewing time. It's not that I don't thoroughly love all those wifely and motherly duties (yea, right, choke!), but I've been counting the days down to this week for a month now. And frankly, I was counting the days till the boys were in school for much longer than that! So then, Monday night, after my husband is starting to feel human again, my 5 year old starts fussing of a stomach ache. Great, a sleepless night, and a fast moving virus. What a week. I already knew the other one would be home on Tuesday. Now it's the whole crowd. Bryce was up a couple times in the night but never puked until morning, after I'd already decided I'd keep him home. OK, I'd reconciled that my Tuesday was going to suck too, but the emotions are in the fine print. I had two doctor's appointments that day, and Sophie had a speach therapy appt that obviously had to be cancelled. Today they are technically both on the mend. I am still suspicious of potential spreading of that tummy flu. Sophie and I have still averted it, knock on wood. I had to drive Bryce to school because he refused to get on the bus and had a fit outside in the snow. Yes, as though the week has not been bad enough, it started snowing last night and ruined my illusion that it was spring! But on the bright side, I did have this morning free to quilt, and I have been plugging away on the very detailed black/batik applique quilt I showed last week. It makes me nervous that I have to do my applique show quilt. It takes immense control! So, hope your week's shaping up to be better than mine :-)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekly Happenings

I spent a day or so's free time preparing for my oldest's 8th birthday party which was yesterday. He had 10 friends to a party at a bowling alley! The kids had fun with the bowling (we have mini or 10-pin bowling), the arcade games and pizza. The biggest hits of the afternoon were the roll of quarters I had to dole out and the re-lighting sparkler candles!
It's been a busy week of this and that, and not a ton of what I really need to be tackling (ie., the quilt below!). I have started it, and spent 3-4 hours on it, but this week I must hit it hard. I have more work arriving later in the week. It's gorgeous applique done by hand and is immensely time consuming to quilt. I have to be SO careful. I thought a couple afternoons of doing piecing and tying up loose ends in my sewing room might give my arm/wrist a break from the continuing carpal tunnel that is creeping in again. Yuck!
Earlier in the week I added the flower at the center of this piece, and today I added the green piping and the outermost deep purple border. This is my piece for the Maine Quilt Show in August. It's 95% finished. I have just a couple things left in mind before I get the backing prepped and get it quilted. I am so tickled how it's changed just by adding the outer borders. I'll get a better picture soon (this was taken in the dungeon where I like to sew).
A month or so ago I went to my oldest son's 2nd grade class and spent an afternoon teaching them about quilts. It was a blast and I am so surprised how interested they all were. We talked about the secret code of Harriet Tubman and the Underground RR, and then had a couple projects. They made these self-portraits using fabric pens. I did a similar project 2 yrs ago when he was in kindergarten - that quilt turned out great. He came home last week with the pile of 6"x6" portraits that I need to get made into a quilt. To date, 19 of them are now bordered and I have a concept for the remainder of the quilt.
I machine quilted a couple banners this week too - one for my business. The pic below is the back of it. I am a guest vendor at a Linus blanket show this weekend. The other banner is for the Linus coordinator. It's simpler but cute.
And a close up of the really quick quilting... It's nothing gorgeous, but then the coordinator wanted this done yesterday.
I spent time this week making a couple of blocks for the Bees Knees quilting bee. April is my month, and I have designed a paper-pieced tea-leaf block. I needed to write a tutorial because I don't know how many people are skilled at foundation piecing. It took a while to do the tutorial, taking a picture after each row of stitching. I think I made the 2nd block in about 15 minutes! I know it's a bit of an odd combination of colors and fabrics, but my EQ6 rendition of the quilt is great!
And lastly, I leave you with a cute picture of my 3-1/2 year old. She's my shining light, and the sweetest thing ever.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Preserving a family historical treasure

A woman brought me this quilt recently. She does not sew. She hired a person in the guild to piece these 42 squares together. The squares were made by the person's mother, who is now 90, back in 1930! She was 10 years old when the redwork applique squares were made. They are actually more pink than red, but that's in the fine points. I think it is so interesting that either her or her mother held onto them for 80 years! She's surprising her mother with this quilt next month.
(sorry...the above picture is upside-down).
I found the very-printed 1930's reproduction fabrics hard to quilt on. They don't really show the thread or the quilting when it is quilted. I was happy to see some patterning once the piece was removed fron the frame. I unfortunately had to deviate from my beliefs that stippling is hideous and should never be used. Well, it is...but I was in a quandry. I started the outer 2 borders in a very-1930's characteristic straight cross-hatching, but I could not get my damn machine from skipping stitches every now and again. It does this on occasion with lighter weight sandwiches, but I have not figured out how to avoid it. SO...I spent an hour picking out that and decided that since I couldn't see anything I was quilting (and neither the dark rose or the darker blue threads I tried looked good whatsoever!), that the stippling wouldn't be so irritating afterall. Besides, she originally asked that it all be stippled. I did my best sales trick to convince her that there really are more attractive types of quilting, and so on...
It may not be completely representative of 1930's in style, but I think it is pretty. Hopefully if the owner ever calls me back, she will think so too!
Even despite the stippling, the back has a nice texture. Here's a couple close-ups of the embroidery. I love all things that are old and that were handmade, so these are especially neat. Wish this was my quilt!

It's been a mighty odd winter for us in New England. We had one snowfall since January, and it melted 2 days later. The school kids have had only one snow day, and only 1 or 2 others in December (doggone it, they will be out of school by June 12!) While many areas were hammered with record snowfall, we had more 50 degree days in February than I can count. Some Aprils are not as nice as our February was. Just this week alone, we've seen 65F three times. I never see bulbs poking through the ground for another month. Sophie and I spent the morning raking leaves from my front gardens (OK, me raking; her - sitting in her "bird's nest" made from my gathered twigs from the gardens and all the leaves!). I have tried not to get into the mindset that it is "spring" yet, but gosh, it feels like it. My will to go to the basement to sew is quenched when there's a sunny and warm patio to sit by!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Firestorm becomes Autumn's Bounty

This is Sonja's quilt (And Sonja...if you still want that surprise, close this asap!). I had the pleasure of quilting it for her. It was her 3rd quilt, according to her. She, like I, has an insatiable love of batiks. What she also has is an amazing story. I encourage you to go here and read a little about her...
The name for her quilt, "Firestorm", is naturally born out of the immense tragedy she and her husband went through last year. The quilt does have some fiery gold and red hues, but as soon as I saw it in person, I was more reminded of Fall in New England than of fire. To me, it needed some other connotation that wasn't a constant reminder of the damage and destruction of a housefire. Fire, Sun and flames are great quilting motifs, but I really felt that I needed to take this quilt in a different direction.
Rather than decompose the quilt in a truly creative way, as Carla taught in her QW class, I utilized the natural lines and sections of the quilt. I chose several different types of leaf designs to quilt in the different rows. I selected two Rainbows variagated threads to use - one was more colorful and one was predominantly orange tones for the gold areas. In retrospect, the shimmery variagated threads "made" this quilt.
Above is the quilt center, which I really like. It is simple, yet it speaks for itself.
I certainly got to use Suzanne's decorated twirly feathers a bit on this quilt! And some vining leaves too.
The outer ends of the quilt have 6" squares which I placed oak leaves in. I loved getting to play with different sashing patterns. It really was a fun quilt to make.
Some decorated feathers and some plain traditional feathers. Not leaves, mind you, but fun and pretty.
I especially like the continuous leaves I designed for the 6" blocks above.
Sonja, I hope you and your husband like this. I hope you will send me a picture of the quilt finished, bound and on your bed. It was a joy to do and hard to send home to SC.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Stars fell on Texas

An internet client sent me this last month. She loves to make quilts with stars (I've done several of them!). I'm not sure what this line is but I'm pretty sure it's a Moda. There's a couple of fabrics that look like paint-brushings that I really like so I plan to find out. When it arrived, the plan was an all-over around the stars, which were to be SID. I quickly realized that the stars needed quilting too or they'd be floppy compared to the rest of the quilt. This plan was getting very labor intensive with the 16 stars, 16 sets of rogue star points and much stop & start to quilt within the stars. Not that it is not completely doable, mind you, I didn't think that this was the plan of the owner's budget so I approached her with an alternative. I needed a plan that could be quilted in less than 6 hours so that I might make profit too :-) Afterall, this is only a 71" quilt!
SID is not my favorite thing to do by a longshot. It takes a goodly amount of time. My target was to design a pattern that could accentuate the stars, and be quilted continuously with the rest of the quilt. What I drafted up has wreaths in the 4-patches, flowers in the diamond-shaped blocks that connect the stars, and something different in the stars. AND, it can be stitched continuously in rows. It did take a fair bit of marking of the circles, but that part is fast and easy. There is connecting stitching to get to the wreaths, but I do it along a seamline, and since many of the fabrics are close to the thread color, it does not really show unless you look closely on the back.
The backing is a soft flannel - one large piece w/o seams. Yea! The way to go, I tell you. Why quilters love to overpiece backings is a mystery to me!! But then, I fall guilty to that now and then too.
I selected a thread color that is a good match to the cream of the stars fabric. I thought that this would let the stars be "star of the show". In hindsight, I kind of wish I'd chosen a soft tan instead (although I hate to second guess decisions). The fabrics in the background are of all tones, and the beige thread is darker than I really prefer on the darkest of these. I tan mighted have tempered the quilting a bit, and made it stand out somewhat on the stars. Initially I didn't think that this is what I wanted, but in the end, I think I changed my mind.
I had done half of the border in the beige when I decided to rip it out and use a soft tan instead. It's not that I love my ripper (HA!...another hour certainly does not help that hourly wage one bit), but the deeper tone is better on the dark tan border. Or I think so anyhow.
I hope the owner likes it. The entire time I was sewing I was cursing the thread color, and cursing myself because I knew it was taking a long time, despite no SID. It took as long as I estimated the original plan to take! Once I removed it and cleaned off the chalk, is when it hit me. I love it. That is the point when the quilts come to life. And this one, once bound, will be fantastic. I know it will be loved by it's owner.
Enjoy Sandy!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

More Awesome Backwards Weather

But who's complaining??! Not me. It is early March and it's 55F here today. Rare I tell you, but becomming more the norm this year.

It's a peaceful day here at Casa Quilts of Love. My husband and younger two kids went to my mom's for the day. My daughter was dying to play with my cousin's girls (he's up from CT this weekend), but I dummied up and goofed dates on my oldest's friend's birthday party. Thought it was yesterday, turns out it was today. So he and I stayed home so I could shuttle him to the party and "take care of business". I have a good bit of school prep to do (and Lord knows I can find some sewing to do as well!).

I have done my next blocks for the Quilt block round robin. It's a bit of a tedious star, but my 2 blocks (on right) are done. Now to mail on to Carol.
And here's the black & white houses for the Bees Knees quilting bee. Seems simple enough. Really sucks that I made one errant cut on her original fabrics. I had to go dig out black and whites from stash and remake them! Hopefully it will be ok.
And a few sneek peeks of a client's quilts. They will get mailed back to her once I finish removing chalk marks. She's actually local to me, within an hour's drive but prefers the USPS!
This one I finished this afternoon. It's a 45" wall hanging. I was actually cursing it a bit because the damn brown threads were showing here and there through the white fabric. I don't know what the white is, but I need to tell her about heavier weights like Kona. Once I laid it in my hallway and opened the door to allow lots of natural light, I loved the texture.
I tried to keep the quilting relatively simple - ie., no outline/ditch stitching. I put leaf wreaths in each card-trick block, and a leaf motif in the center. The background is just filled with a peacock fill. This client generally prefers less quilting to more, but since it is a wallhanging, I probably did more than I might have otherwise done.
I like it, and hope she does. Who doesn't love a feathered bordered?
This is another of her quilts. It's a similar pattern, but with different borders, and a bit larger.

Again, more simple, but pretty quilting. I copied a flower motif that is in the owl fabric into the loopy-flower fill I used. Because of the pink, it is obviously for a girl and it can handle the flowers and swirls to make it more feminine.
And lastly, a very bright DP9. And as advertised, this simple quilting scheme produces the softest quilts! They just mold around you.