Monday, October 31, 2011

Snow Flakes

Despite today being only Halloween, Mother Nature gave us a good helping of whoop-ass on Saturday night. I have lived in Maine (albeit, Southern Maine too) over 15 years, and I have only seen a few flakes of snow in October. We got socked with 6-8" of very wet snow. The leaves are not yet off of the bushes. They were all laying on the ground on Sunday morning. The remnants of my flowers were burried. And tonight I get to drag by kids (ok, they get to drag Mom) to the houses trick-or-treating in snow clothes. The temps hit the 50's today, but it barely made a dent on the snow on the yards. Sidewalks are guaranteed to be a little slickery tonight for the ghouls and gobblins.
The melting snow turned out to be a not-so-good place for a picture of my star blocks (& block pieces). The batiks started to absorb the water as soon as I layed them down. So much for neatly starched blocks...

There is still much planned that is not evident here, but the bits and pieces are beginning to come together.

To all of the readers that left kind words from the last post (Bloggers Quilt Festival), thank you dearly. It means more than you know. Have a great Halloween with plenty of chocolate :-))

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bloggers Quilt Festival

I am sure you are aware that the Blogger's Quilt Festival is this week. It is brought to us by Amy, who has done this for a few years now. I hope you have the time to look at the many quilts that will be posted at the Festival's link this week!

My entry for this fall's festival is a small-ish wall quilt named "Intertwined". Despite it being only 40" square, it is paked with details, and is made of my all-time favorite fabrics - Hoffman 1895 hand-dye batiks. It is shown below with me and my usually eager to be in a picture daughter (not so much this time!) at the Maine Quilt Show this past summer. Happily, it was one of 4 quilts to receive a 1st place ribbon!

The 14" center block was started a year before in a Karen Kay Buckley hand applique class. I should note that I am comletely addicted to hand applique, so if you have never tried, you might really enjoy it. Karen's applique pieces were challenging at first, being that they have a ton of inner points, and because they are small (grapes are under 1/2" diameter), but it is a relaxing form of stitching, and I like that I was able to drag it along with me to dance and soccer, etc. One other thing to say is that the batik fabrics are a tigher weave than most cottons, and the behave so much better for this type applique in that they are not prone to reveling when the turned under seam allowance is slightly under 1/4".

So, thanks Karen, for a wonderful inspiration for my quilt. I did design the remainder of the quilt myself to compliment the center block. The 4 cathedral windows were paper-pieced, and were intended to bring a little variety to the applique. I hand appliqued the two-tone ribbon on the twice before I was satisfied with how it looked. And then I decided that it just needed a punch of something different. That's when I pulled out my lime green batik and the orange & gold fabrics and made the intertwining vines of nasturtium (and hence the name for the quilt). I designed them to be like morning glories in shape, but somehow because they were orange, then needed to be a different flower!

I must confess, I am a longarm quiter, and I am most definitely my all-time worst client iterms of pickyness. I spent over 20 hours on this rather small quilt. The quilting features some ghost flowers in the background, and sections of feathers and other fills. Though I love doing the applique, I am a quilter at heart, and need for the quilting to take a "top" to another level. The quilting designs are as important as the piecing & applique.

The quilt received some Swarovski crystals when it was finished - white ones for the centers of the flowers and several hundred others on the quilt (even though they are not visible in the pictures whatsoever). Under show lights, the quilt twinkles beautifully. I also bound the quilt with a piped binding, which is a great finishing touch.

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures, and others you will see at the Bloggers Festival. If you find yourself ever in the need of a longarm quiter, please feel free to contact me. My business website is here.
(one last picture of "Intertwined"'s back!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesdays are Just For Me

Or they should be!

I thought I'd show this since I am slightly more than just a quilter (only slightly!). I on occasion make heirloom dresses too!

I was able to get more time this past weekend to work on a customer quilt, so I finished it a day earlier than scheduled. This allowed me time to get onto another "chore"...finishing (ahem, starting) my daughter's holiday dress. I completed the simple smocking last night, and how have parts of the outer dress assembled. It has a ruffled underskirt (lining) which hangs below this dress. The ruffles will waste (require) much time assembling! It also has sleeves since it's nearing winter, and this adds some complexity. It's a sweet modern spring-ish print, not so Christmassy. But who wants to wear red & green or Santas in February anyhow.
The smocking may eventually get some bullion knots or roses or beading eventually, but I really just needed to get moving so I did it simply. One thing I used for the 1st time is rayon thread. It has a lovely silky shine, but the threads were more of a nuisance to smock with, and I doubt I'll opt for them again. They give the bodice a shimmery, more formal look though.
I will waste plenty of time this week marking my next personal quilt (only after I go get a couple more blue marking pens). I have some designs that are easier to mark before loading the quilt, plus it is forcing me to think about how to fill the spaces. I am seriously contemplating about quilting it in gold thread. It's a gutsy move for me, considering I am most comfortable quilting in matching thread (to more easily disguize my goofs). But I have this most awesome cone of military gold Glide thread that I am dying to use on a quilt... Not metallic, but nearly as good as that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

As the week ends

As the week comes to an end, I myself can look back and be rather pleased with my level of productivity. It was worlds better than the past 3-4 weeks. I like the feeling of accomplishment. Heck, I even did a couple loads of laundry this week, entertained the renovation contractor while he was here yesterday (he was, mind you, taking care of a few lingering issues!), and I plan to actually roast a whole chicken in a little bit. I love to sew and quilt on most any day, but all that domestic crap needs the stars in alignment to get done!

So while my last couple quilts are whirling enroute to one final show for the year, the 3rd of 4 for the month, I have put my next show quilt back onto the frame to work on a few of the things I left undone. I'd hoped it would be off yesterday, but I have opted for another day to do one last thing. Most of my finishing work is to my liking. My micro-quilting to make those small green diamonds pop, however, leaves me high up on that fence still. I may leave it. I may do some bobbin work to outline them. I'm digging deep for an alternative to taking out Invisifil stitched densely at 16 stitches per inch! It would take a very long time.
I also micro filled the curved cross-hatching with my favorite silk thread. It looks basically just like the Invisifil, and is nearly as fine, but I knew that the silk would not shred. Turns out, the Invisifil only shredded once on all the other work. Who'd have known. Planets must have aligned today as well. I have wanted to "checker board" the CC before but never got the guts to do it - it's kind of a point of no return once you do it. Nothing short of a torch gets those little stitches out. It is just the effect I was after, thankfully. I have said before how I really don't love the tan (OK, I kinda loathe this taupe background, which I think is a Kona or Bella solid - don't know, as it was in my stash and I opted not to buy any fabric for this quilt). It needed to have whimsical quilting to draw one's attention from the blandness of it. I think I am getting there.

I also dug out a nice green Rainbows thread for feathering the green borders. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with Rainbows. Some days is stitches amazingly; others, it shreds and gives me grief. I always love how it looks, with a pretty sheen and very subtle variagation. I decided to give it a go today, not wanting everything on this quilt to blend into the fabrics. Despite the picture, the feathering shows vividly in the Rainbows. My cave lighting keeps you from seeing that though. I turn off all the lights except for a spotlight so that the texture is more evident!

And lastly, and what is probably one of my all-time favorite quilt additions...the butterflies got their antennae! The quilt was almost completed when I chose to applique 8 butterflies onto it. They are so integral to the finished whimsical look of the quilt that I can hardly believe I nearly didn't do it. The top part of the flowers will get "flattened" tomorrow, and I will ponder a couple more things. But for one week, all is good!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Into my groove

The debaucles of last week with my feathered star measurements are behind me. I have 4 of them done. Not trimmed yet to confirm how close to the desired size I came, but laying flat, with 40 crisp points each, no enormous blaring errors. I am happy. Now onto the layout and the more eclectic applique that will accompany these. I love a traditional quilt, but this is looking too generic. It needs to be infused with some creativity!
I have recently come across a more than biased article, whose source will remain nameless. This article has a highly opinionated view of machine quilting - the author would likely drown on a rainy day like today because her nose is pretty high up there. Simply put, the writer cannot stand machine quilting whatsoever. She cannot find merit in a bit of it. It's a little hard to swallow, given what I do each day, but I know that the biases towards one type of quilting or another can be very strong, as I have been there too once.

I remember 15 years ago going to the Maine Quilt Show with my mom. I was home visiting on vacation. At that point I was an avid sewer, but had only made a handful of quilts, all hand quilted. My great-grandmothers crafted things with their hands like crocheted and embroidered items, and I took great pride being able to follow in their footsteps at a time when none of my other friends did such things. I have always been a bit old fashioned at heart. I remember seeing the many quilts that day and just scowling at the machine quilted ones. I found it hard to even appreciate the piecing for how much I truly hated to see the machine quilting. Now keep in mind that machine quilting has moved forward with leaps & bounds in the last 10 years. Gone is the era of "mattress pad" quilting, and even the number of purely stippled quilts at shows is all but at a minimum. If this is all anybody had ever seen for machine quilting, then a hatred of it is well deserved. But that is not the case.

I don't really know at what point I started really having an interest in it -- probably 4 or so years go. The advent of blogging has made pictures of nearly anything easily accessible. The patterns of stitching were becoming more decorative, and pretty, actually enhancing the piecing, rather than just covering it. Early machine quilting was boring, but it has definitely become a much more artistic medium. I spent a couple years trying hard to machine quilt smaller quilts on my domestic machine. It was frustrating, pulling quilts through such a small space. I also continued to hand quilt at least 5 more quilts in that period. At some point I rationalized that I really did like the machine quilting, and that I wanted to get a longarm. I have hardly looked back since. I remember seeing the work of Ronda Beyer that year (2009) at the quilt show, and thinking how very far machine quilting has become. It was creative, artistic, and lovely. We shouldn't necessarily compare the number of hours it takes to hand quilt versus machine quilting. We all know that machine pieced quilts are infinitely faster than their hand pieced cousins, so the same should be true for the quilting. The value of a quilt is not won or lost on the number of hours spent on the quilting. I spent 75 hours on one of my show quilts. Did it not win because there were others that required 76 hours??

Enough of my closedmindedness daily ranting. It could go on for another 5 pages. My point is that we should all be more open to changes. Embrace different things because it is entirely possible that we don't really have all the facts. I have hand quilted and I have longarmed. Longarm quilting is harder, and requires a significantly greater amount of creativity in the design of the quilting. Taking out mistakes is more time-consuming. Stitch-in-the-ditch is necessary to outline the features of the quilt so that they DO show. I don't like to put these 2 forms of quilting up for a side-by-side comparison as they really are quite different. I like and appreciate each for it's own merits. You should consider this too.

I will leave you with the veining and flowering that I am doing for a couple days as I work out designs for a couple of client quilts that are next up for quilting. The majority of the quilting on this quilt is complete. My primary goal is to add veins on 100 leaves, and do the detail work on the 20 flowers.


edited...I just got the call from the Georgia Quilt Show!!! My Postcards from Venice quilt won 2nd place in the large wall-hanging division. She then told me my other quilt (Intertwined) was very lovely too. About 2 minutes later, she called back to tell me she'd not done her homework closely, and Intertwined won a 3rd place in small-wall hanging division!~ I am SOOO tickled. This is great news, and they both have $$$$ too :-))

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rainbow Stars

One down, three to go. These are 20", and are taking me a ridulously long time to piece. For the most part, I am able to not tip off my triangle points. The Y-seams are getting old though. I have waffled horribly on whether to piece this quilt or to applique this one. A great comment was that the two designs should marry (or at least date!). I pondered way too long on how to infuse the seemingly Southwestern feathered stars with the more eclectic and art nouveau applique. My other desire was to use background and colored fabrics that I already have. I do have a plan
to infuse this with interesting and unique applique, but the first step is to get these 2 blocks wrapped up. Putting them aside will only make it harder to finish without errors (and trust me, I've made enough!). I cut out the HSTs an inch larger than they were supposed to be, but didn't discover it until I had 128 of them stitched into rows ready to put onto the star pieces. Woops! Pick out, trim down, restitch, repeat.

Here's my ponder for you this week...Have you seen a feathered star design that did NOT have a distinct southwestern feel? I need to see some because I really do not want the quilt to look that way. Send me a link if you do!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Interesting Stories

I have been in the "news" lately. Here are two recent posts semi-featuring my quilting.

The Maine House is an absolutely beautiful blog that features lovely photos of my state, delicious food, and other pretty houseware things (ie. quilts). It's written by a woman who coincidently lives near me also. She shows one of my first longarmed quilts - the one that I won Rookie of the Year at MQX last year with.

A few weeks ago, the sister to a client of mine sent one of her stories about her daughter, a new quilter, to Quilt Story. It's a wonderful story about a relatively new quilter that wanted to make 13 quilts for her wedding, which was fortunately more than a year away (at least it was when I first started quilting for her!). Over the summer I was fortunate enough to quilt at least half a dozen of her quilts, as well as the "Beth" quilt that is shown on that post, which her mother Sandy won a 3rd place ribbon for at the Lowell Quilt Festival. I have previously shown pictures of this lovely quilt, but Sandy was most humble about posting her win until just recently. So check this's a heart-warming story.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sea Glass wins 2nd at MQX West!

I happily got the word this morning from some of my viewers in Oregon that my Sea Glass quilt has earned a 2nd place ribbon and a Teacher's ribbon! I know I may have shown a few of these pictures in the past posts, but heck, who cares. I will be able to take a better full quilt shot in a few weeks when I see it at another show. This one is bad, I know, because it is suspended from my balcony, and has horrible backwash light.
Some of my closer up pictures do, however show the quilting details. This one was before the bindig escapades.

I did add somewhere around 2500 crystals to the quilt. I bet it just twinkles...

For those interested, it is 63"x78", all batiks or hand-dyes top and back. I used Hobbs 80/20 with Tuscany wool on the top of that. The thread is Bottomline, a little So Fine and some Rainbows on the waves.

The binding looks nice (maybe not the best first attempt at a scallop border, but hey). The color changes of the binding match those of the outer border. And I added a tawny batik piping, which helps it lay nice and smooth. Added pain & suffering, yes, but it is worth it in the end.

I love my juxtiposed semi-traditional border of curved cross-hatching with the very free-form quilting of the interior of the quilt. A first for me to be so unstructured...

If you want to see more pictures, look here, and here , and here, and here. Or get yourself to Portland, OR this weekend to see it at MQX!~

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


FRUSTRATIONS with a capital "F". Everywhere I turn this week, I find nothing is quite as I want it to be. I took this quilt off the machine this morning. It was like quilting blind. The quilt is lovely blue fabrics. Not my taste, but tasteful. At the dropoff, I discussed the merits of using a non blue thread with the client, but in the end she chose blue. It does not show at all.

Fortunately, now that it is off the machine, there is a little texture to see. I was worried there too, since she gave me a very thin batting. She asked for a "happy" edge-to-edge. Hope I came somewhat close. It's not like I have a drawer of "dismally sad" options.

I showed an applique design I was playing with last time -- something to use up my bright batiks. For some reason, I am having a hard time commiting. I used to be able to just cut and sew without barely a thought. I spent time yesterday playing with a fun pieced design for the same fabrics. I like it a lot. Just wonder what to do to make it "mine", and not just another feathered star quilt. That is one good thing with my applique concept.
Then logic got the better of me. In my hunt for more batik fabrics, I came across the beginnings of this quilt. It is actually a trilogy of small quilts, made from the same fabrics, but in different patterns, intended one day to be a gift for each of my 3 kids. So there is the sentimental thing there which is getting in the way of me just kicking that bag of batiks out to pasture. Anyhow, I decided it would be way better to at the very least, get the pile of storm at sea blocks assembled into a top. This did require making the 2-1/2" squares, but not too many of them. Seems doable for a couple afternoons. Optimistically, I set out in this seemingly simple adventure...

I had 4 pieces that were initially pieced in black, that needed to be yellow. Couldn't find the yellow I used, so I had to remove all 8 and redo them. This wasted an hour because I redid each at least 3 times! When, I ask, did I become such a slob of a piecer?? I put 2 rows of the storm at sea blocks together, and am mortified at how sloppy the piecing is. Mortified. The points of the diamonds don't meet up properly. The yellow triangles go too far.

There shouldn't be black at the ends of the colored diamonds. It's the work of part-time, half-blind quilter-wanna-be. I hate to give up, but seriously, if this project is to come to fruition, it's going to mean I come of another piecing scheme and start over. It's considered "out to pasture at the moment. Ther's no way I will leave my children sloppy quilts to remember their mother "the quilter" by.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A long weekend and a few finishes

The kids were home 4 days this past Columbus Day weekend. Just about all sewing came to a screaching halt, except that which I can do between 5:30 and 7am, and after bedtime. It does pay to be an early bird in my house! We spent Saturday doing the soccer and dance shuttles all morning, and a fair bit of puttering in the afternoon. The weather hit 80 or above all three days which is not common for Maine. I was able to get a good bit of my back garden replanted. It was pulled out completely this time last year in preparation for the house addition. Fortunately I was able to keep much of the plants in a holding bed that I have grown veggies in in past years.
On Sunday we made our annual trek out to the Lobster Shack. It's a local and kind of low end restaurant on the coast. You pay for the location not the fried seafood and burgers. It was a hot and gorgeous day. The kids usually cooperate for a few pictures that often go on the Christmas card, then we walk along the rocks. A nice outting. It's the kind of place that makes forgetting any issues and a strong desire to really want to sew easy.

Last weekend was the Quilting with Machines show in Ohio. I sent my Postcards from Venice to the show. Despite some reports that the show seemed small, the competition of quilts was of a high quality, as seen here. I am lucky to have received an honorable mention as well as a teachers ribbon. I'll find out when it arrives home which teacher gave it. This quilt is making its way to the Georgia Quilt Show now, with high hopes of doing well there in 2 weeks.

What else haveI been up to??? Still designing, still dreaming of a creative way to use red and orange hand-dyes. I actually like the design I am developing now. It's kind of art nouveou, but not really in those colors. Maybe I should just give up and go for the purples and make the design process simpler on my brain!

I finished a client's 2nd table runner in the wee hours of this weekend. The little red flower centers are not appliqued on. I prepared the circles for the client to enhance the look of the flowers.

...and a closeup look

And lastly, I have shirred some fabric that will become my daughter's newest dress. We picked it out for Christmas, despite it not being red or green. Those seem so cliched and not worn but a few times around the holidays. I just want to make her a pretty heirloom dress that can be worn year-round. I need to go buy yellow floss before I can go much further. It is a shade of green, and there is some red (only the piping details will be red), but it will have a yellow ruffled underskirt and sleeves to make it springlike. I should have bought the eyelet laces this weekend at Joann's on their sale...oh well!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Runner Fun

My Quilt is off of the frame for the first of wht will likely be several quilting sessions. I've shown a few sneak peek, but you'll have to wait until another time for a grand reveal. In the meantime, it is back to quilting as usual...customers and catch up. Here's the first of 2 table runners that this customer brought to me. All she requested was it to be fancy. That means: quilt the tan pretty, as this is the area that will show most.
I bit the bullet and used a sandy Rainbows thread. Generally speaking, I love this thread and the shimmery effect it has. It is espeially gorgeous on batik fabrics, but it can be a little bit persnicketty for me to work with. Sometimes I have more trouble with tension and with it creting small pokies on the topside. I decided since this was small, I'd venture into the potential trouble zone. Much to my surprise, it tensioned up very well, so I decided to use it on the entire quilt and not just the tan regions. What you cannot see from the pictures is that this thread has soft and subtle variations in color from ivory to caramel, and it has a gorgeos sheen. It creates a very formal look.

I suspect she will be happy. Her 2nd runner will have to wait until the weekend, as I have another deadline that I currently on the frame. Feathers, yummy and luscious feathers....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My Memories Giveaway

I swear, if my head were not attached, it would roll away! I know I said I'd do this on October 1. Sorry, I am a few days late. And to makeit worse, I cannot for the life of me get the widget from random number geneator to give me the result to display!

Anyways, the winner is #3, Sue: "I would love a chance to win this software ! There are so many ways I could use this ! I would love to make calendars & quilt labels and ......". I'll be contacting you soon with download information.

Thanks to all that played.