Friday, July 29, 2011

Will the Wonders Never Cease??

Today was mom's day away to go to the Maine Quilt Show, and let the kids have a day with Nana. I hoped that my two quilts would show well. I kind of knew from the shows earlier this year that Postcards from Venice would probably do well, as long as judges were not too picky about a few misaligned points on the curved-pieced rosette. It's not the flashiest quilt, and it's probably not what every Mainer thinks is the most interesting to stare at, but who's looking at the quilt when it has all those awesome colorful ribbons to gawk at??!

Holy smokes (OK, that is NOT the word I mumbled as I walked into the Civic Center, and right off the bat, saw this). I could hardly believe it. No, I practically peed my britches with glee and shock. Yes, this is 75 hours of quilting vindicated in ribbons. I am so happy. No, make that still on cloud 19. Higher than the air. Four quilt shows since April; seven ribbons. Happy grin.
I know you have all seen the quilt months ago, buthere's a closeup at the new quilt "bling". I'm sure my daughter will think that the purple ribbon ought to be in her room. We may have to have a small (ok, huge) negotiation.

I did enter another quilt. Smaller, brighter, flashier. It received a ton of fantastic comments (yes, I am always listening to the viewers...I know that they may not love dull colors and dense quilting, but judges do...). "Intertwined", as I named this 42" applique quilt also brought home a blue ribbon (one of I believe 5 given at the show). More happy smiles.

I actually had quilted 2 other quilts that were at the show (client). One was judged, and it took a 2nd place ribbon (one of only a few of those!).

All in all, a very successful, surprising, shocking and smile-filled day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dresden Plates (the pattern & the plans)

The Dresden plate pattern has been around for ages. It is a classic & traditional design that has been found in quilts for nearly 200 years. There are many variations of this pattern...ones with petals, ones with pointy "blades", ones with small center circles, ones with larger ones, and they can be found with any number of petals or blades too, giving them a much varied look. I am making a simple Dresden plate quilt, intended to showcase large-scale modern-ish prints so I do not want my pieces to be too small. I understand that Accuquilt has a die for cutting a Dresden plate which results in either 20 or 22 petals/blades. I don't have Accuquilt however, so I went to EQ7, where I can design whatever my heart desires. Sadly after I did this, my printer would absolutely not print without buying over $50 in ink cartridges, so I went to the old-fashioned route. This is, afterall, an old-fashioned block, so why not?!

I got a piece or wrapping paper. It's the largest paper I own, and my blocks are 15", which is larger than standard paper. I traced a 12" diameter quilting circle template, and cut it out. I will make my blade template from this. You could make it any size you want. I left a good bit around the Dresden to allow for quilting designs. If you don't have such template, a compass or large dinner plate will work too.
With your circle, fold it in half and then in half again, to mark 4 90-degree quadrants. If you are anal like me, take a protractor and confirm that they are in fact 90 degrees. I hae chosen a bladed Dresden with only 12 blades. Take one of the quadrants and your protractor, and mark 3 30-degree sections. I then square off the rounded end of the section and also shorten the piece where it approaches the center of the circle. We are almost finished. The last thing you need to do is add the 1/4" seam allowance to the sides (and end if you want). Cut this out and trace onto a more substantial piece of cardstock or plastic. Viola, here is your blade pattern.

Sorry, blurry, but you get the idea. Now it is a little tedious from here, but trust me, the sewing part is much faster. Trace and cut out how ever many pieces you need. I do this with 4-5 layers of fabric stacked, using a rotary cutter.

On your sewing machine, fold the piece in half lengthwise, and stitch with 1/4" seam across the end. I do backstitch at the folded end.

Now trim the seam to a scant 1/8". You don't want the bulk within the point.

Turn the piece right side out and press gently with scissors to get it pointy. Press.

Next, choose the arrangement of your 12 blades, and stitch together. I backstitch ~0.5" at the top of the seam so I don't have to worry with loose threads or a seam pulling loose. I then press the seams to one direction (because I will be ditch quilting each blade and this can not be accomplished if pressed open). Then I starch the top. There are many bias edges. The starch helps the plate to hold its shape until it is added to a background fabric.

Missing something?? Yup, the center. This is typically a circle, but since I found this perfect 12-petaled Michael Miller fabric, I couldn't resist. Applique away! I have used a 5-6" center.

I have 5 of my needed 20 plates ready for their background fabric. Please note that after I sew the plates to the background, I highly suggest going back and trimming that "triangle" of excess fabric from each blade point. It has a seam in it and will be very prone to showing through to the top of the Dresden plate when it is quilted. I hate this look :-((

This is my "Walk on the Wild-Side" Dresdens. They are bold and bright, and look so fantastic with the flower centers. Thanks to all for your comments on my quilt layouts. I kind of figured I'd go with this layout all along, but I just needed confirmation that it would be great (rather than going the more traditional route).
Coincidently, this morning I came across another person's blog post about Dresdens. You may find it informational. It is here...

And dont forget about the Quilting Sale...

Have a good Wednesday~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quilting Sale!

To ring in the month of August, I am running a quilting sale! All pantographs and free-handed edge-to-edge patterns are priced at 1.25 cents per square inch. I am also pricing stippling at a penny per square inch! This is cheaper than just about anywhere, and is ideal for your heavily used utility quilts. I have many patterns to select from. They are shown here ... I stock a great weight Hobbs 80/20 batting in all widths, and a large selection of thread colors. So get out those quilt tops that have been awaiting quilting and get them done! This is also a great opportunity to get your Christmas and holiday presents finished too.

Iwill accept quilts at this price until further notice (sometime in August).

The sale price is for quilting only, and does not include the typical charges for thread and batting (0.22 cents per square inch). It also applies only for pantographs regularly priced less than 1.7 cents per sq in.

Contact me directly if you have any questions at
For those of you less familiar with my quilting, I am a longarm quilter with several show awards for the high quality of my work. I assure you that the quilt you receive back will more than meet your expectations.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A hot weekend away

As the thermometer read this last Friday (the bottom number is the outside temp at 6:02pm!), we were preparing to getaway to here.
I'd gotten passes from the lirary to go to the Coastal Botanical gardens, which was very pleasant. Oddly my kids do enjoy places like this, and this particular garden has lots of rocks to climb on and water features (sprays, fountains, etc) in which to cool one's fingers (or more!) on a hot day. The hydrandea's were amazing, as were many other varieties of flowers. They have apparently received more rain than we have. My grass and gardens are starving for rain.

Boothbay Harbor is a quaint sea-village with cute shops, boats to take on whale-watching trips, and just a picturesque piece of Maine. The cheapo motel I booked last minute on Friday managed to lose our reservation, and put us up at their cost down the street at a slightly better place. Kids got to swim in the pool, but most of all it was great because it was FREE!

Yesterday, rather than hitting those places that are really just for kids, we decided to do a day trip to Monhegan Island. It's a 90min boat ride on what was a just fantastic day. Monhegan is a year round small community, but has no paved roads and is predominantly occupied by real granola-ish artsy-fartsy types. The ocean-side of the island has treacherously steep cliffs of rock. There are many hiking trails around this 1.5sq mile island. The kids liked a dip in the water at a small beach, and my middle kid thought he'd hit the jackpot for all seaglass finds (there have obviously been many lobster & clam bakes there with a plentiful supply of beer!).

Monhegan is like a step back in time. I think there are a couple trucks on the island. Nowhere takes credit cards, and there is no police or medical services so don't get hurt or sick. It was a lovely and calm day, mostly away from the hustle and bustle of an otherwise touristy area.

Now, back to work!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Baskets, Baskets and more baskets

Somewhere near 80 baskets I think.

This is already home with it's owneer, but posting it slipped through the cracks with all of the chaos of our home renovation. The fabrics all came from the owner's many visits to Hawaii.
The backgrounds were a little bit hard to see anything on while I was quilting. They are just small prints in tiny dots or toile. The ivory thread just disappeared from my eyes half of the time.

Everything is ditch quilted, but what to actually quilt on the baskets themselves was a challenge at times. I did tropical-ish looking flowers, leaves and a variety of swags.

Some of the larger baskets have feathers and ferns or flowers coming out of them. To keep with the tropical look, I did a pseudo pineapple leaf border in the red. I would have probably done a beadboard or something with rulers since the freehanded visibility is kind of a nightmare.

And a few looks at the back... The majority of the backing is what I consider a quilter's nightmare: pure white. It shows the quilting very well, but doesn't hide anything (assuming I might want to hide a few stops/starts or ill-placed stitches!). It is fun for showing the many (maybe 6-7) different colors of bright threads used on the baskets though.
All of the basket outlines are much more visible from the back too.

Kind of fin...

It's like a tropical sauna here - high 80's and grossly humid already (barely 9am). Hope you can find a cool place to chill today ;-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Up to me chin in Dresdens

Two days ago I dared to venture out with 3 kids to look at green fabrics. One of my favorite fabric haunts will cut as small as 1/8", and carries name-brand materials for as low as $3.99 to $4.50 per yard for most everything. I am working on my modern Dresden quilt and thought it needed a little more variety. Maybe I was just feeling restless or even a tad insane. I went to Mardens anyhow. The boys were actually good, first time all week I can say that I was not cringing and appologizing for their rudeness in public. I sent them off to fetch me a couple more greens. At fifty cents, I could hardly go wrong if they brought me ugly #1 and ugly #2. Then I sent them to count the greens, and the yellows and even the holiday prints (about 900 bolts in all). All done without bickering and fighting while the gal cut a dozen bolts for me. Shocking!
So, I now have 20 whole Dresdens, 8 half Dresdens and 4 quarters. Turns out I think I mis- counted and really didn't need quite so many. It's no big deal, they sew up SO fast. I make 5-6 in an hour each morning before the chaos starts each day.

I only have one of the centers actually appliqued on though. This is where the slow work starts. The center took aboiut an hour to do because of all the scallops.

I got some background fabric in the mail (above). It's another case of something not looking exactly the same on the internet as it does in person. The one on the bottom right was mixed into the many tans (this is Michael Miller's Krystal line), and is actually much too peach in person for my taste. I've been playing with layouts to try to minimize the peachy-ness, but all of them appear to need more of the tan. Drat. As an aside...this fabric comes in loads of colors, and looks kind of like a batik, except that it is not a tight weave. I suspect it will ravel, and I would have liked a nicer sheen on the fabric, but that's just my take on it. With lots of quilting, it will probably be just fine.
That one above is one of the original concepts, but I don't really love the thought of doing all the borders and sashings and attempting to keep them straight and square. The next one is better, but is it boring??
Number 3 is where my current designs are migrating towards. I like the use of the criss-crossing and the bunches of 4 hearts that it makes. Not sure if I want the peach in there (or else I need more tan...).
Or, here's another concept, but it too needs more tan fabric. It certainly leaves plenty of dauntingly plain background fabric to fill with quilting.
So what are your thoughts?...Please give feedback on how you'd set the Dresdens.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Are you Identifiable?

As a quilter, is your style something that someone could walk into a show (or a blind room), and say, "I know exactly who made that". Or are your styles so varied that even you wonder how a particular quilt came out of your sewing room? These are interesting thoughts, perhaps more so if you make quilts for shows.

I am probing about this today because of something my husband said this weekend. We had a couple of his highschool friends over Friday evening to see the new house addition, and one of them wanted to see "The Quilter" - aka my longarm. He'd only heard of this type sewing machine, but couldn't envision how such a machine could take up an entire room. I was off with the kids, even unaware that the studio tour was going on. I had a quilt loaded at the time, but only a small part of a quilt is visible. Saturday he told me that he didn't know if it was a customer quilt or one of mine. He thought it might be mine since there was a lot of quilting on it, but it was not like anything I have done so he was not sure. I pondered about these words for a good while. Very interesting thoughts.

If you make quilts for show, or even if all you do is enjoy quilts at a show, do you like to walk into a show and know who made something before you even see the tag? More simply than that, are you able to identify a quilt's maker simply by the style, whether it be the piecing or the quilting? At one time, I may have thought no, but not anymore. Some quilters are very identifiable. I wonder if I will become one of someday, or even if I want to be identifiable.

This is one by Janet Stone. She's a lovely quilter (as verified by that very large ribbon!), and all of her works (that I have seen in recent years) have alphabet letters worked into the quilt. In some instances, you have to hunt a bit for them, but they are there. I have no idea what the rationale is, but that's not really the point. She's a good, award-winning quilter, and she has an identifiable theme to many of her quilts. What do you suppose judges think? If you were a judge and saw a quilt with letters, would this bias you in any way? Would you automatically think it is a Janet Stone quilt? Probing thoughts. (This post is merely for thought, not to cast opinions on how people choose to make their quilts. The ones I have shown here are fantastic works of art)

Another quilt...We all know the many works of Ronda Beyer. She, too, has a very identifiable style. When I think of her I think of bold colors, hand-dyes, lots of white background for showy quilting, lovely and whimsical applique. And of course the quilting is always over the top with an abundance of curved cross-hatching, feathering and fabulous fillers. Unique? Definitely. Creative and award-winning? Certainly. Identifiable? In my opinion, yes. Are other quilters at a disadvantage when good quilters are identifiable? Hmmm...More things to ponder.

The quilt that was on my frame when my husband did the sewing room tour was in fact mine. It's my Seaglass quilt that is nearing completion. I hope to have it ready for a show this fall. I had it on for a couple days to finish up a few open areas. When my husband said he thought the quilt may not be mine simply by the style, it made me think back to other recent quilts I have done. It made me wonder about the identifiability of one's works. I never really thought I was "Identifiable", but I definitely gravitate to certain types of fabric, and colors, and maybe some aspects of my quilting are if not identifiable, then at least kind of predictable. I don't want to be predictable (that is somewhat synonymous with boring!) The quilt below, the first of my own to longarm, is definitely me in the sense that it is symmetrically pieced. It has a bold center element. It has about a kazillion pieces - I have never shied away from intricate piecing, even as a longarmer where detailed piecing is not judged to receive as many points. I'm honestly not so sure what possessed me to use the sandy tones, but the quilting and piecing are somewhat traditional and symmetrical.

After that, I did this quilt, Primavera. It's in many ways, ALL Me. It's the jewel-toned hand-dye batiks. I was getting into the needle-turn applique, and loving it. Motifs are completely symmetrical, yet somewhat whimsical. It hangs on the wall across from my desk for me to see while I type, and I just love it. Ever have some colors that just make your heart sing? These are the ones. As I type on, too, I'll point out areas of the quilting that I think are becoming repeatable (or identifiable??) in my style. I like pebbles, and feathers and the way a viewer's eye focuses on the center because the radiating rays dray your eye there.

This quilt (Postcards from Venice) was admittedly a complete departure for me in terms of fabric choices. I do not do brown, but I loved the idea of making an inlaid floor, and the Stonehenge fabrics were perfect for it. It has more than a kazillion pieces, so again, nothing simple in terms of piecing and praying for a square quilt. It has curved piecing, paper piecing, and old-fashioned, sew, sew, sew, sew. It's quilted to the moon and back since it is a show quilt (4 ribbons so far and 2 more shows coming up). There are no shortage of feathers and other minute fills, and again, I chose rays out from the center. With such a prominent center medallion, did this quilt really need the rays? Or is this a predictable/identifiable style? That's for me to consider as quilting for future quilts is designed.

One last quilt (Intertwined), that is headed to it's first show next weekend. I'll show the quilt in 2 weeks, but here's the center. See anything familiar out of the gate?? Hand-dye batiks, jewel tones, lots of applique (and there is a ton of detail on the rest of it). The quilting is what I favor and love most - monochromatic texture using feathers, pebbles, and the becoming-popular rays from the center. This time, I added some fillers on every-other ray for more texture. The fact that the quilting that I gravitate towards is often similar, makes me really want to think hard when I am designing future show quilts (and there are a couple in the works right now). Or should I take the approach "If it works now, why change?"??? Is it better to stick with a style that may become Identifiable, or stray to different styles of piecing, applique & quilting just to mix it up a bit? I'm seriously pondering this.

So the quilt that was on the machine, which was not identifiable as having been made by me is this one...Back in the winter, I started this quilt. I have been dreaming of making a Sea Glass quilt for some time. I just love the many colors sea glass comes in. I have taken my kids looking for sea glass this summer 2-3 times at the beach, and they love it. Anyways, when I conceived this quilt, I really intended it to be a colorwash or watercolor style background (the waves I added were done after the fact). It is all batiks, some hand-dyes and some prints to add texture. It's the kaleidoscope block, which is not hard, but gives an interesting faceted appearance to the background. Maybe it does not have the detail of some of my other quilts, and it did not take 6 months to piece it. But appliqueing on 120 pieces of seaglass was not fast effort, even if they are machine appliqued (another departure for me on this quilt). Being traditional-minded, I almost never machine applique. Non-symmetrical, machine appliqued, and blue? Yes, I really do not like blue. My house has no blue in it, so this won't ever hang here. Someday one of my kids can have it though.I envisioned it having very asymmetrical, textural quilting, which it does. My pictures could be better. I suspect that I had to take them in a different than usual place because of my house's construction. The waves are appliqued from several different batiks, going darker to lighter at the peaks. They are quilted with a shimmery variegated blue thread in a wave-like feather motif. Different, yet still familiar for me.

Another peek at the texture I tried to create. It's random, yet follows the design somewhat. In my opinion, this may seem like easy quilting, but it is not. It is difficult to make a filler convey a message. You want it to scream "I am a flowing wave", but does it??

This is basically an art-quilt, so to speak, with 7" borders. I found it hard not to fall back into my old ways of semi-traditional & structured quilting for the borders. The feathers are a little different - an attempt to make them more wave-like. I love how the borders came out and can't wait to use this design on another quilt (a more traditional one!). And that is probably how designs quilts identifiable to the quilter :-)

The thing I did do, however, to make this quilt's borders a little different, and more whimsical is I made the borders asymmetrical. Two corners of the quilt have the quilting above for their borders, and the remaining borders are like what is below. I will bind 2 corners with scalloped binding for a real twist.

In closing, I hope I have left you with things to think about. Is your style in quilts and quilting predictable or identifiable? If you were making quilts for shows, would you want it to be? Of should we each be striving to reach outside of our comfort-zone box? The creative person in me feels the need to branch out to different realms often, but I definitely fall back to a comfort zone when I am not thinking about it. I never want to make quilts for show that might be viewed as boring, but identifiable might be OK, someday.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Modern Dresdens

Although the grout is calling (aka, the infinished kitchen backsplashes), I thought I'd share the start of my modern dresden plate quilt. My red/rose fabric that I chose for the center of the plates arrived yesterday. So far I have 6 of 20 plates completed. They stitch up reasonably quickly, then it will be a ton of hand applique.
The conservative side of me hears fingernails on a chalk board, but the wild and whimsical side is singing in the rain at the sight of this. It's completely wild and bold. I really love green, can you tell??

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pondering, Thinking, Dreaming, Designing

and a little sewing.

It's a fact: I have gotten little to nothing done quilt-wise since my boys got out of school 3-1/2 weeks ago. They are trouble times two together, and I find I am all too often breaking up arguments or plans of mischief. One of them has no judgement whatsoever and is just not to be trusted if not watched. I am slow to get my momentum quilting full-force again after doing very little for 2 months because of the mirage of contractors in and out of my workspaces. My house addition is 98% done, and I so need the distraction of work to keep me sane. First: Inspiration and Momentum, then quilting.

I have been hand appliqueing most evenings when not holding a paint brush or glass of wine. I have gotten 2 of the 4 corners of leaves & flowers stitched down. Hard to believe there are still 14 flowers and 48 leaves remaining. It will probably done at the end of the summer at the soonest. I love the addition of the border. It is all very busy, but that is kind of my style.
Though there are weeks of hand stitching still to go, the quilting is imminent. It is never too soon to plan for how it might be quilted. I think I may have most of the threads I want to use, but I'm sort of a thread junkie like some girls are shoe junkies. What's a few hundred cones amongst friends? Here is my initial plan, very much incomplete still, but nevertheless, started. I want the quilting to be outside the box. It will not necessarily follow the piecing, for that would be boring since the quilt is mostly 30-90 diamonds. I will (hold your breath) use a contrasting color in some places...I get so fearful of thread showing that I usually choose very much matching top threads. There's just no way I will change thread colors 25 times throughout the star. No way.
And if that is not enough...I am pondering about another quilt I want to make. OK, it's a shade beyond wanting, since I made one of the plates today. Remember this post?... Good thing I really had my heart set on doing something else because for some reason, EQ7 had to be rebooted and now claims that the file cannot be opened. Well, it can be opened, but all of those quilt designs are poof! Sigh... I am making this probably for my bed eventually. It's a twist on the untraditionally traditional design in that I have a ton of modern-ish green prints to use. The plates are stitched on machine and then will be likely hand appliqued to the background.

OK, now time to decompress and look towards the impending bedtime of my kids. It's been A Day. My usually reasonable 9-year old was a monster today, draining me of all reasonable energy. And there is an apple pie in the oven -- my new oven, in my new kitchen. Yes, the kitchen is DONE. It has countertops and running water now too. Thank goodness. Or should I say finally. Finally! Renovations are not for the weak at heart :-))

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Modern Quilt

I completed this very large king-sized quilt a week or so ago. It's already made its safe journey back to California so I can show pictures of it. Each of the 16 blocks are a whopping 24" square. The piecing is very modern-minimalist, but the fabrics are anything but minimal. They are from the Parisville collection, and are busy to the busy power (for you math buffs out there). They are playful and fun, and work well on this design. The uniform center 8" square framed in some mystery tan fabric help to ground and simpliy the quilt's appearance. I say "mystery" fabric because I have never seen this particular material. It has almost a gauzy texture, but is a nice weight for quilting. I'm sure Michelle will clarify the mystery for me :-)
The owner asked for feathering in the solid areas, and that was her only request. Traditional feathering somehow seemed too "traditional" for this quilt, so I chose a more organic look. For quilts similar to this one (ie, really lacking a definite traditional look), other "feathery" options include funky feathers with swirls, vining leaves and ferns. Naturally, I came up with this list after quilting these.

The outer 4" band of the blocks I chose to stitch in a geometric meandering. It comes out looking kind of path-like and random. It seemed like a good choice for the modern-look. The center 8" square is swirled.

Remember me mentioning how "out there" these fabrics are? That one above I affectionately called the "eye-chart" fabric. It was nearly impossible to see what I was doing. It reminds me of the dot test pages that eye-doctors have you look at. But I love-love the scalloped shells below. These make me happy.

And this fabric is fun too.

Michelle pieced a fantastic backing - two quilts in one. I tried my best to center the top onto it. It has a ton of tan on it so the texture is there for the eye to see.