Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crazy is as Crazy does

This is one of the craziest weeks for me.  I have kids home a day and a half, we spent all yesterday morning at the dentist.  I have Christmas quilts that must get done.  I am leaving for Houston in 3 days for a week. And what I am thinking about doing??...(insert lobotomy) I am busy spying a new quilt to start.  Yes, I know.  You all remember that I have my falling leaves quilt started (the quilting that is), and my floral applique quilt is all done, just waiting it's turn in line for the longarm.  Maybe the printed bug has bitten me, who knows.  Hold on and that will make more sense.
This is my client Carol's quilt (above).  The photo is from the Jax Quiltfest last month, where we earned a 1st place in the duo category.  I quilted this last spring.  It was a real challenge because I wanted the quilting to show since it was going to show, but since it is about 100 modern prints smacked down on the 74" canvas, I had my doubts that I could pull it off.  Must have done something right though :-)

After completing the quilting, I decided I'd pitch the idea to Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine for their "Challenging Quilts" article segment.  They loved the idea.  The article has just come out, in the magazine that will be at Houston next week too!  Here's the opening page.  You'll have to wait for your copy to see all the great photos of how I transformed this busy and colorful quilt, which many quilters might prefer to E2E, into a winning show quilt.
So with that introduction, the fact that I have dug out some very busy prints of my own should be no surprise.  Truth be told, I rarely buy fabrics and use them immediately.  As a quilter (and I am sure many of you understand this to your core), I am a bit of a fabric hoarder.  I had bought the green Martha Negley (top left) yardage and the coordinating orange/peach fabrics probably 3-4 years ago.  I think I found them for $3 per yard at Mardens, a local salvage-type store.  And then time passed and I had absolutely no idea what I'd do with them.  
Then I got another busy quilt from Carol.  This one, though does have lots of white and will be stunning when quilted.  And then I had the bug planted in my ear.  I want to play with the elongated hexagon design.  This happens to be the pattern that she used, but her's are not all done in a kaleidoscope fashion.  It is an Inklingo design, but I cannot use this because every piece is fussy cut.   After cutting out enough pieces for a few blocks, I realized how very many repeats and different prints it takes to get a good look.  I picked up 4 more of my older faves from Phillip Jacobs from Jackie Kunkel's shop, and have one waiting for me in Houston from another.  I think I have a good variety of colors, but won't know til they are cut!  I will definitely do mine different from Carol's.  I have champagne silk to use as the setting blocks and sashings.  I have to have a plain backdrop to really quilt the heck out of this.  The colors and prints are great, but alone they are just too much for me to create a competitive show quilt for the machine quilting shows.  The combination of these with the silk will be perfect.  
Crazy?.  Yup, without a doubt.  I have a couple of these to take on my trip.  I will hand piece these.  I love the hand work, and without an applique project, this will be good.  See you when I get back from the greatest quilt show!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bold and Happy

This is a very busy and bold client quilt.  It has many modern fabrics as well as batiks, and 17 hand embroidered squares.The fabrics don't really fall into one color family because they are prints, so choosing a compatible thread was both challenging and simple.  I could have used just about anything.  It would show a little here and none most everywhere.  Let that be a lesson - don't overthink thread selections when there is this much pattern.

Here's the thread I used.  It has nearly every color pastel possible in it.  I received this from Aurifil this last summer as a gift, along with a dozen other cones.  I have been very skeptical of cottons, and essentially quit quilting with cotton thread years ago, but hearing this, Alex Veronelli of Aurifil offered to send me a "couple" samples.  Many are different weights of cotton, and I really like most.  This happens to be a poly thread, but it quilts like a dream.
 The embroidery blocks were echo quilted using a coordinating SoFine! thread (50wt poly).  I didn't want the variegated thread to detract from the appearance of the quilt that she was going for.  This meant for about 6 different color changes, but I do have a lot of SoFine! colors, thankfully.
 What I did on the quilting is hard to decipher with all the print too.  The setting triangles (above) got 1/2" spaced lines, just to set this part of the quilt off.  The small dark (blue) stones were cc-d, and the background of the quilt received my all-over feather treatment, with some leaves.  There are aspects of this quilt that are somewhat organic -- the embroideries are of birds and flowers.  This filler is not incredibly fast, but it works well in spaces like this.

I also spent a few days last week working on one of my own.  This is small, 36"x53" and is made from Cherrywood.  Can't remember if I have shown this top finished or not, but here it is again.  It is free curve-pieced, and is intended to be more on the modern edge when I am done.
 I thought I had all the thread I wanted to use, but soon discovered I was wrong.  With the hundred or so fabrics I used (OK, maybe there are only 50 - but they vary in color and tone), it is hard to pick one or two that work well everywhere.  I did manage to get the framework stitched so that the quilt is stabilized.  Here's a peek at the feathers (I use that term loosely) that wander down through the falling leaves.  All but the last section of these is done.  I need a different dark blue thread.  Hello, Glide!
The background is getting something different, at least for me it is different.  These leaf-like shapes will be filled before I am done, but I need that thread too.  The 50wt thread I used up the sides on the hatching is too heavy and thready for my taste (it may come out and be replaced with the thinner stuff that I am getting).  It has a lot of work left, but something this size could be finished in a few days.  That's my theory and hope anyways.
My last bit of fantastic news is this.  Guess where I am going to be picking up this new thread??...HOUSTON!!  I am leaving for Houston next Saturday.  Meander Publishing is putting me up there - I found out last week.  I am so excited.  The airfares are cheap, but hotels run $250 per night, and I couldn't pull that off comfortably.  I am so thankful to have good colleagues and friends in this industry.  I will be working in their booth at Quilt Market on Sunday and Monday, and Wednesday evening for the Quilt Festival Preview.  I get to go to the awards presentation Tuesday, and to a winners's luncheon the next day. I have all day Tuesday to myself to find a class to take.  I hope to get into a painting class that is 1/2 day.  As an exhibitor, I will be able to get in to see the quilts during Market here and there, and I am told that we can go in to see them before hours also.  Officially, I only have Thursday to go to the show and to shop so that will be a crazy busy day.  It will end with Quiltapalooza - a costume party.  Remember that this is Halloween!  My daughter isn't thrilled about mom being gone for Halloween, but she'll be ok.  It just means that I have a ton of different things to pack.  'Nuff rambling, time to go get my day started!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Quilt Show Chat

While I am certainly not a saint when it comes to keeping my mouth shut over judging disappointment, I am one to value the experience.  If I didn't, there is no way that I would continue making, entering and competing quilts.  There's no way I'd know what to improve or where I am excelling.  Lately, though it definitely seems that quilters have been a tad more vocal about expressing dissatisfaction over judges comments, to the point of completely discarding the comments.
Back to the show...I am getting such a kick out of reading that some other quilters just trash the comments after the show.  Yup, the garbage can.  I must be some neurotic freak because I have every judges sheet that has ever been given to me, from the very first quilt I entered in 2009, to the latest show a couple weeks ago that I complained about in my last post.  And I have been known to refer back to them.  When I hear that some quilters think that they are mostly useless, it is sad.  The vast majority of them do have information that can help your quilting if you look for it.
They are supposed to be informative and thought provoking.  They also should highlight what the quilter has done well.  They also need to critique areas that need improvement.  It's just common sense.  If all they did was say how good you do this and that, there really wouldn't be much point of getting them, now would there?  It is the areas of negative feedback that are the bone of recent contention.  Some comments, including some made on one of my quilt's critiques, were overly picky when it comes to the chosen colors for the quilt.  I have heard of two other individuals that had quilts at a certain recent quilt show that received similar "I don't like your colors" comments.  To me, this is nit-picking, especially at this level.  This is not Houston.  It is not extremely difficult (or hard at all!) to get juried into this show.  And furthermore, isn't that a subjective choice?  Judging should be more about design, stitching technique, quilting plan and execution, etc.  My remarks were for this quilt.  The red and coral were "not appreciated"...I believe the comment was that they were "jarring" to the otherwise complimentary palate.  Ouch.
 I, for one, love the bold juxtaposition of color that the bright red star brings to the quilt.  And that coral diamond border helps to draw the viewer's eye in to the star, without being quite as dramatic of a color as the red.  Each color I chose was carefully auditioned.  I wonder if comments like this are made because they think that a quilter haphazardly chooses a fabric.  The red and coral provide the framework for the eye.  I just so disagree, and I would imagine that the others that got color comments from judges would too.  I mean seriously, from the colors in the quilt, is there a better color choice to have used?  It's OK, please tell me if you think so.  Give me technical feedback; it is more constructive and useful.
The comments from judges are (IMHO) invaluable.  They have taught me early in this journey that I made cruddy binding.  I learned that it should be snug, filled, straight, narrow, and that some do prefer bias-cut binding.  From my first show, I took one thing from each review and let that be a focus of an area for future shows that I didn't want to lost as many points on.  Binding was my beginning.  I added making piped bindings to my repertoire, and more recently the scalloped binding.  Top scores, nearly every time.  If a judge had only remarked on the good, these learnings would never have come.
Some things that judges tell us we just tension should be good and consistent throughout.  This is their subtle way of telling us that you have bad tension somewhere.  It's kind of inevitable, so use matching bobbins, and check the tension frequently.  Bury your thread-tails.  They just have a magnet for finding where you stop and start, and trust me, after 2 years of sending it off in a box, running a lint roller over it each time, anything not buried is bound to come out of where it once was snipped.   I think that judges prefer shorter stitches - just a gleaning from the many sheets I have reviewed. Shorter stitches make curves that much smoother.  Variety of stitching patterns and overall design are a big deal, especially with the machine quilting shows.  But there must be good cohesion of patterns -- an ever-present challenge with many, including me.   They just know when the quilt is a weekend project.  A well thought out design is hard to execute that quickly.  With as many show quilts as I have made in 4 years, I struggle each time to design something that I just love and want to make, with fabrics that I really like, while being mindful of what a judge may say.  This should not be read "she makes quilts with only the judge in mind".  I do ultimately make what I love, but I do think about how both judges and viewers might see it.  Twelve to 18 months of effort is just too much to make something that won't show well also.  It is a gentle balancing act.
My concluding comments are this.  Don't let the comments of judges suck your style and personality from what you make.  Let them guide you to make something that may be technically better, whether you plan to show it or not.  Let the comments tell you that darker colors make a better outer border than paler shades. Lighter and less printed backgrounds will show off the quilting better than darker and busier.  Some threads are more appropriate for denser quilting.  Their comments are only intended to make us better and more conscientious quilters.  They aren't a personal attack.

Monday, October 07, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little like Christmas

The Christmas deliveries are coming in and out of here daily.  I much prefer to get them done early as opposed to making my clients sweat that they might not have time to get them bound.  This one is flying its way back to California later this week.  It's a cute holiday applique pattern.  I suspect it is a pattern that is commercially available, but I am not certain.
 It has a number of appliques, including these snowflakes, that are from an ultra-suede material.  It's a little bit thick so I limited how much I stitched on this stuff.  All of the appliques are ditch-stitched.  It is sort of my standard.  I hate how they look if they aren't outline stitched.  It just gives the quilt a more finished look this way.
 My client noted that she has quite a few embellishments like buttons and other similar things that will be added when this comes back home.  That will help Santa's face :-)  Right now he's kind of expressionless.
 I chose backgrounds for the scenes that were fun.  Many got an echo-type quilting or a swirly-flowy look, kind of what you might expect for sky or whirling snow.
 These snowmen were just a little too big to leave them without a little bit of quilting on them, so I added the swirl.  Just a little touch of whimsy-
 The gingerbread house is fun.  All of the snow is the ultra-suede.
 And it is clear that there was some fussy-cutting for these ornaments.  The reindeer fabric is a hoot.  Who cant giggle at a winking reindeer?!
 This was kind of a large quilt, and I am happy to have it off my docket for the month.  I hope it's owner is just as happy!
A week or so ago, I finished a simpler holiday quilt for a client.  It is an edge-to-edge on fairly busy holiday/winter fabrics.  She requested a snowflake pattern.  After a bit of hunting around, I found this one.  It is rather dense and a bit time-consuming to quilt, but looks good.
Do you have holiday projects that need finishing in the next 2 months?  If I can help you with your quilting, please don't hesitate to contact me.  I have some openings still for edge-to-edge quilting, and maybe a few custom, depending on the complexity.  Most quilters have cut off their holiday jobs by now.  I happen to be pretty good at time-management, so I do have a few openings still.  Email if interested.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Jax Quiltfest & other quilt show musings

Last weekend was the Jax Quiltfest.  It is a smaller, non-juried quilt show in Florida.  I have had bloggy friends suggest I enter there (yes, they live in the area), but previously had not because of the dates/quilts available/etc.  The prizes there are small.  I know...what has this world come to when a ribbon is not enough?  Well, I tell ya...if there are three other shows at the same time in September that have good prizes, then that about explains where my most competitive quilts will be.  Never the less, I sent Postcards from Venice and Sea Glass to Jax anyways.  I have a client from out of the country that enters quilts there, and she goes to this show as a part of a vacation.  I entered my quilts from 2011 partly for giggles, and partly so she can see some of my work. Now, I am painfully aware that these quilts are 2 yrs old and they really are not competitive in the quilt circuit, mostly.  They did OK for a year, but the level of quilting is really good, and they often just don't place now.
Turns out, my Sea Glass took an HM, and the Best Machine Quilting award.  It earned a whopping $100, but nobody is complaining.  Not me anyways.  The show did get a bunch of other folks complaining though. The most surprising thing is the number of emails I have received since the show to complain to me about the show judging.  They are quilters, not judges, so whether they really "know" all the facts is debatable.  In fact the funniest thing, while I was writing this, someone from Jax just called me.  Talk about a hot topic!  I know that these quilts that I sent have flaws.  I even know where they are - no surprise there.  I haven't seen the other quilts at the show in these categories, so my ability to comment is limited.   The emails were to tell me that this quilt is way better than the ribbons hanging on it might suggest.  The messages thought that the show winner was lackluster and not deserving.  That is a harsh thing to say.  It just told me that perhaps the judge favored hand-made quilts.  It was a ballsy group of gals that contacted me, but it is suggesting of a much deeper issue. Shows like this that want to be competitive with quilters and the choice of quilters cannot gain the reputation of having biased judging, or completely irrational judging.  Shows must (I mean "MUST") have more than one judge, as this most definitely keeps personal opinions tempered somewhat.  Jax Quiltfest only had one judge.  I can comment more sufficiently on the content of the judging when my quilt arrives home and I see what criteria are on their judging form.

Now, don't mistake this post.  I am not really too upset by this.  Amused, sure.  But, I won't enter there again with my better quilts if I think that there's crap going down in the judging room.   Clean up your act!

I have been holding out showing a picture of this quilt for a while now.  I quilted it in May or so.  It belongs to Carol, and is 74" square.  She entered this and another (I did not quilt) in Jaxfest.  This was in a duet category, and it took 1st place!  I'm delighted for her.  Who doesn't love a blue ribbon?!?  I will show some close-ups of the quilting in a couple of weeks.  It is coming out in a magazine at the end of the month!