Thursday, November 29, 2012

Aunt Millie's Garden

I have seen several of these Aunt Millie's Garden quilts done up at the shows I attended last year.  Quite often they are appliqued on white or seemingly odd color backgrounds not becoming of all that effort.  This one is fantastic.  There are many different brown prints - maybe a dozen or so.  It is homogeneous in color, but still has that scrappy quilt look.  I'm quite pleased with  how this quilt turned out, and home that the owner will be too when it makes it's way home to her next week.

You see, Megan finished this quilt nearly 2 years ago.  It has been sent to two previous longarm quilters who simply put it into their ever-so-long que for quilting, and then all but forgot about it.  When I read about her problem, I was extremely disgusted. Soon after, she contacted me about quilting the quilt for her.  Despite receiving the quilt about a month later than I anticipated (she opted to reverse one of the applique borders), I am happy to be getting this back to her by the date I originally stated.  It is very important that a quilter is up front with the client about when quilts can be completed.  I, personally, would never send a quilt to one that told me it might be 6+ months.  I don't care how good he/she is.  I realize that there are quilters with unreasonably long backlogs that still get many quilts sent to them.  I just am not one of them.  I pride myself in being able to turn the quilts over within 3-5 weeks, typically.  Enough ranting...On to the quilt!

She's chosen to only do 9 of the 12 blocks.  I think it looks great.  What I wanted to do was break up the very boxy construction lines with quilting that is "outside the lines".  I really dislike the look of taking a quilt that is blocks and sashings and just quilting a filler into the blocks and then doing something different on the sashings.  It looks stiff and boring, and not something not really fitting a show quilt.  And Megan mentioned that she wants to enter this in a show or two.
Hopefully you can see how I placed a large square on point, and allowed it to protrude into the border.  It's filled with 1/2" straight line filler.  Inside that square, is another square filled with pebbling.
The center of the quilt has a medallion of sorts (below).  As you can see, it just centers on the applique without regard for the sashing.  I love the curved cross-hatching used as a frame for the applique.
Maybe the quilt scheme shows a little better here...I spent a whopping 8 hours ditch stitching all of the appliques with a clear monofilament thread.  All in all, this quilt took about 20 hours to complete - over 6 hours over what I had expected it might take (yes, I clearly lost my shirt on the project, but the end result is definitely worth seeing at a show!).  
 After the ditching was done and the 2 frames were finished, I went around and chose fillers for the spaces.  The dense fills help to make the appliques pop.  That and the fact that I used a Hobbs 80/20 batt and a Tuscany wool batting!  The corner blocks had echo quilting.  The inside of the borders was quilted with a ruffly kind of snailing stippling.  I'm sure it has a more technical term (or not), but I have no idea what it is.
The outside of the borders is done with a nice McTavishing and feathers along the vines on 2 sides, and a hip straight line pattern on the other two sides.  This quilt is textural very appealing.
 The only appliques that I chose to quilt on were the center circles of the 9 blocks.  They got a small feathered wreath.  Given more time and budget, I could have definitely done more quilting on the appliques themselves.  But the reality is that they look pretty good as they are, and since the batting has wool, they will probably hold their shape nicely.
 One last look...
This quilt was done with both Superior Magnifico and Glide, in two shades of brown.  I had never used the Magnifico, and it performed wonderfully -- just like the Glide in fact.  The Glide costs less and comes on a larger cone, so which do you think I will use more??

Hope you enjoyed this quilt.  And I hope Megan likes it too.  I will look forward to seeing it hanging in a show somewhere.

On to my next custom...

PS...If you are out there and want to have a quilt quilted in a simpler edge-to-edge, please contact me.  I am in desperate need of some less time consuming work to do now and then!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Millie in Action

Despite it being a long holiday weekend, I have been trying to quilt on this client quilt an hour and a half each morning before my troops are up.  Today I got a little extra time and was able to complete all of the ditching of the appliques.  This is Aunt Millie's Garden, and my client has only used 9 of the 12 blocks in the design (thankfully!!).  I spent a whopping 8 hours ditching the many appliques.  Yea you read that correctly...Eight hours of stitching monofilament.  This is a sweet pattern, but it really doesn't leave a decent amount of space around the appliques for much quilting.  If I made it, I'd make each block at least 1-2" larger on all 4 sides.  Never the less, I am still trying to work a creative quilting scheme into the layout.  You'll know if I succeeded  by the end of this week!
It will be good to have the kids go back to school tomorrow.  Then it is only four weeks until the next vacation hits us.  I'm not sure when the vacations became such a drag.  Surely, sometime in my life I loved them.  Not so anymore.  Mind you, it's not really been so bad having my kids home and hanging around (if you can get accustomed to the many "I'm boreds", but they take a huge hit on my quilting work at a time when I am truly swamped.  Actually, it's the eating holidays and Christmas that I just loathe.  Easter Bunnies are cute.  Fourth of July has a good outdoor spread.  But Thanksgiving is like a cesspool of too much cooking, too many opinions, not enough caring and listening, lying, people being people, deceptions revealed, and all the things that are so much part of a big family it can make you rather run for the hills than try to enjoy a family turkey day.  Next year may well be different.  I just don't need celebrations if that's what they are.  Days like that just make me dread the next holiday.

For all interested, my cat Sally came home on Tuesday after spending 4 nights at the vet.  She got IV fluids, and several xrays, all revealing "suspicious" items but not confirmed items in her intestines.  When she began to eat again on Sunday afternoon, after nearly 5-1/2 days not eating, she began her road to recovery.  Nothing un-natural has come out of her, so it makes us wonder what really was wrong.  I've purged the kids' rooms of potentially dangerous things, in hopes of avoiding a repeat $627 experience!  This is putting a severe financial burden on this Christmas, which coupled with my existing dislike of the holiday, isn't helping matters.  But we are all happy to have her home.  I'm good only purchasing the essential Christmas gifts so long as we aren't burying my kids's cat this week.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trying to Be Real

Thanks to the many FB friends that continually inquire how things are going with my cat.  To catch everyone else up, she quit eating this past Tuesday.  She's only 4 so this is not a normal thing.  On Thursday, she stayed with the vet, had xrays and got fluids.  They were quite sure that day that there was nothing in her intestines, and that the next step was blood tests.   I was kind of surprised at the clean xrays, as I know she chews and eats foam when she can find it.  I've seen it in her catbox.  As an aside, I have raided the boys' rooms for all foam, gimp and anything that looks chewable, but I fear it may be too late.  We took her home to mull this additional cost over.  These tests would only reveal something we didn't want to deal with like kidney or liver malfunction.  She ate something on Thursday evening and Friday morning, so I was hopeful that things were looking better.  Then she refused all day Friday, despite taking appetite stimulant pills.  Yesterday I took her back to the vet to have the tests.  She's lost nearly 3lb since this started.  They drew blood and ran additional xrays, this time at no cost.  The bloodwork was clean, but the vet thought that the xrays were "suspicious" - not anything obvious on them, but not nothing to say a conclusive diagnosis.  My gut is that foam, since it is mostly air, would appear like a gas pocket in the gut.  We can take her for an ultrasound, which costs $400, and will tell us for certain if there is anything there.  If there is, she's headed to surgery.  If no, then we are nowhere closer to knowing what is wrong, and we will have shelled out over $800.  It is daunting monetarily.  The vet is suggesting exploratory surgery, at a cost of anywhere between $500-1200.  The higher end will be reached if they find things in her intestine and have to remove them.  With having already spent $400, this is reaching the obscene.  They won't euthanize a young, and fixable cat because the owners cannot afford to pay.  But they see nothing wrong with sending her home to die a slow death in front of our 3 children.  It's heartbreaking.  It won't be a good Christmas this year, I'm afraid, and this is going to take every bit of our possible summer vacation fund too.  It's not like I need things to depress me this time of year, but this is sure doing that.  Somehow, I need some good news so I can get my quilting mojo back.

On Friday, I finished this quilt.  It's so pretty - lots of great batiks in one of my favorite patterns.  It was a very fun diversion to the Hell going on in our lives.
 I used 4 colors of Glide thread - red, purple, gold and green.  I also did something different.  Rather than ditch quilting all of the points, I chose to stitch on the triangles.  The addition of the thread gives another dimension to the design.  In many places the thread is a contrasting color, and this thread has a great sheen on top of the batik.
 There are feathers, sunflowers, leaves, swirls, rays.  It sounds like a lot, but it's all about the organic look.  I see this quilt as a garden with its colors - the NYBs are flower or sun-like.  Maybe my head is fogged, but I think it all turned out good.
 The center...
 And closer up it reveals a sunflower with sun rays out of it.
 The red is sub-framed to bring it out.

 I feel like there are too many pictures here, but I really like this quilt.
 The outer border.. I may never do ribbon-candy ever again.  Its one of those designs that seemed like a good thing until I realized I had about 600 inches of it to stitch!
 Her backing is a rainbow sherbet-like Indian batik.  The four different bobbin colors hardly show up because of all the backing's color.  I think you can see the patterns though.

I have a much dreaded T-shirt quilt loaded up next.  They are not my favorite quilts to sew.  Each one seems to have it's own bag of issues.   They are always tension headaches because of the greatly differing thicknesses across the top.  But business is business, and right now with cat bills looming, I have to press ahead.  Have a good Sunday and send good digesting wishes to my stupid Pica cat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Winter Snow & Ice

I just quilted this 30"x36" wallhanging for a client.  It's one of my favorite quilts to do in a long time.  Small enough to hold my interest, and when they are smaller, it is easier to put detail in without feeling innundated.  I used 2 batts since it's a wallhanging.  There's a layer of poly on top of the normal Hobbs 80/20 to give the extra relief to the details.  This quilt is kind of in the style of Louisa Smith's strips and curves method, with the kaleidoscope circles/snowflakes.  It's incredible how a printed fabric can piece to make so many intricate shapes.
I stitched using a metallic silver thread from Wonderfil.  I am very pleased with how this thread stitched.  I had only one break, which is not my typical experience with metallic threads.  They sell several threads that I have enjoyed using.
The snowflake blocks are actually only made from 8-45degree wedges, despite appearing more complicated.  I simply outlined some of the key lines in the geometry and let the fabrics do the rest.
 Her backing fabric has the butterflies, so I chose to outline just this one butterfly for fun.
 Rather than doing a ton of SID on all the 1/2" strips, I stitched a squiggly line down the center of them.  If gives a very textural look to the quilt.  All circles and blocks are ditch stitched though.
 The back shows the variety of fillers - feathers, swirls, curls, pebbles, squiggles.
Now, I'm off to run a few quick errands, and then onto her 2nd quilt...a lovely NYB.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Laden with Blunders

The pictures I am showing are of my 38" quilt.  I can be overly critical because it's not your's.  I can explain my errors in the comfort of knowing that I made them on my own quilt.  Mostly, these are not huge "errors"; they are more a matter of personal pickiness, or cases where the stitching didn't turn out as symmetrical as I would have liked.  Whatever the reason or excuse, it is frustrating me because each time I quilt the last couple days, it seems I make many hours of pickout too.

This corner is actually coming along pretty well.  My brown thread arrived yesterday.  Then we got snow today, kids got school delayed an hour and my daughter ended up home today with an eye infection.  As a result, not too much quilting.  For the entire day, only the sections of curved cross-hatching on the brown.  Oh, I say that, knowing that I did start on the center star only to realize it was going to have to be picked out because I hated it.  
 Yesterday was full of ups and downs.  Pros and cons.  I DID manage to get the bottom 2 corners quilted.  And I even like them.  That's a definite plus.  The downside, however, is that they (see below) are not exactly like the top two corner stars.  Translation: Some Pickout Required!  I decided that I like the single 1/4" of outlining on the inter-connected blocks (below) better than the double-line (above).  That's a relatively quick and easy fix.  I also decided that I don't particularly care for what I did on the 1/2" narrow border (above).  If I quilt on this at all, I will use a coordinating thread not the gold.   I am always going to be my worst critic, and sadly, won't be completely satisfied until this looks right, even if my right is different from your's.
 Only a little bit of the center red star shows, but it's all coming out.  I have been sketching away this afternoon trying to come up with something I like.  I want motifs that I have repeated elsewhere to make it cohesive.  That will come, and is by far and large the smallest of the quilt's demons right now.  What I discovered last night is that the filler that I am putting on top of the pieced stars has distorted the lines of the piecing in a few locations.  I didn't stabilize each seam before stitching the fill because I didn't want all those extra lines.  But another quilter noted today that I could have done it initially with water soluble thread (insert whack of forehead!).  It's not that it is an extremely huge area should I decide to rip it all out.  Afterall, this quilt is only 38" square, but it is, Ah... (in my best nonexistent Maine accent) wicked tightly stitched.  It would make me curse some fierce obscenities, and probably make me create some new bad 4-letter words. None the less, there may be no getting around it if I hope to have this in top showing condition.  If you double-click on the next picture, and look at the lower left points of the star, you can see what I am talking about.  That line ought to be straight.
So, thanks for all the great comments recently, and be patient with me as I stew in my frustration.  I know that much of this quilt is insanely unique.  It's just the other areas that leave me rolling my eyes that I must deal with :-)  Hope you have a good week-

Monday, November 05, 2012

Back to work

Though I have not posted in over a week, I have most definitely been busy.  I have several quilts finished for my clients, and am now working on a small wall-hanging of mine.  I'm really not at all convinced that I like this before the quilting, but I will finish it before I opt not to bind.  My goal was to create a quilt from solids that can be shown at quilt shows in a small quilt category (under 40" per side).  Hindsight tells me that the Moda Crossweaves may have not been the best fabric to use.  A batik or mostly solid would have been better.  None the less, I am quilting the heck out of it, hoping that I will like it better in the end.  After today, I have a sore back and wrists, but no added love!
Yesterday I went to A Quilter's Gathering show in Manchester, NH.  I had 3 quilts there, but only Zen Garden brought home quilt bling.  It was the only quilt to receive more than 2 ribbons, so that's pretty cool.  It received 1st in Color Compatibility, 2nd in Machine Quilting Excellence and 2nd in Overall Craftsmanship.  This is a smaller show, but it attracts some pretty big name quilters, both hand and machine quilters.  Several of them I know from the machine quilting show circuit.  Since I posted many of my pics to my Facebook page, I won't repost them here.  Best of Show was another Linda Roy hand quilted masterpiece.  Seems it was one of her's that won last year too.  It was fun getting to meet The Megan Farkas - even if it happened because I overheard a conversation where my name was mentioned.  I'm not nosey...just curious!  For those of you that don't know Megan, her quilt is the one here of the Japanese Ladies (maybe you've seen it in a magazine...).  I'm a fan of her quilts.  Yesterday was interesting listening to the much divided discussions over crystals on quilts.  I don't remember too many of them in the show that were twinkled up, but Zen Garden does have lots of very tiny crystals - 3mm ones.  It just twinkled because it was hanging beneath a bright light fixture and a skylight.  It almost seemed that the guests had been listening to the pre-election crap too long.  The crystal-no crystal discussion was taking on an election tone.  None the less, this quilt was appreciated and it was fin talking to people about it's making.
The quilt shows for 2012 are over now, and the planning for 2013 is in progress.