Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Preparing for the Holidays

As the days get closer to Christmas, I get a little more frantic and scattered.  The things on my plate are becoming more and the plate seems to be shrinking.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know by now that I am not a Christmas girl.  OK, I really do not like it at all.  The days are too short. It is too cold.  I have way too many presents to buy.  Nobody in my family needs a dang thing, but yet we just have that expectation that we must find them the most perfect gift.  Most years this falls short of goal by a mile.  Two of my kids are testing the water by dropping hints to my one last believer that Santa is not real.  Once that news is out, seriously, what is left?!?  Thanksgiving is right around the corner, kicking off this holiday season, and we are expecting snow tomorrow.  Just let me burrow into a nice warm hole and reappear in January, please!

Despite of dealing with a time of year that I just don't feel a need for, I have had the pleasure this year of having quite a few simpler edge-to-edge clients.  Usually I have stacks of custom quilts to get done, which is stressful.  But the E2E's are faster, more predictable, and now and then, I just like to do them.  Here's a stack of three that went home yesterday -- just the tip of the iceberg.  Two more large ones will be done next week after kids go back to school.  Boy, those 3 weeks will fly quickly I am sure.  Never fear, though, I know I have a couple custom quilt clients that have been might patient with me...your's will be done very soon!

I took a few days to put my quilt back onto the machine to work on the ivory silk areas.  It is deceptive -- this is an 82" quilt, so there is a LOT of ivory silk!  I also did the quilting on the outer green ribbons, all 56 pieces of them!  They are taking shape nicely.
I clearly hope to have this ready to go to a spring show, but I have spent so much time on it so far, I will wait if it means getting the small details just right.  I have some areas to pick and fix, as usual. The dark green border is probably one of my favorite borders I have stitched yet.  To me, it conveys the formal-ness of this quilt, as well as the fun of flowers and ribbons.
The center square still needs just a touch of quilting, but nothing too time consuming.  I am mostly pleased with how it is looking.
The parallel lines are 1/8" apart, and I really thought this would be the end of me.  Hindsight is always my biggest teacher.  Message to self...avoid tight parallel lines when the lines of the blocks might not be perfect.  Figures.!
There is a little area on these corners that still needs dense quilting to make the design pop.  I'd say it's not a big job, but that is likely BS  that I'd have to retract at some point!  It will get done at some point.
Even with the little imperfections, which I am constantly thinking how I can mask, I am mostly pleased with how the background filler came out.  Next year hindsight will probably be telling me that parallel lines must be parallel, but today I will ignore that thought.  A year and over 750 hours of work is coming closer to fruition.
But now, my kitchen is calling.  First dinner, and then hopefully some pie.  Today is the day my hubby gets a pie from work every year.  Better be chocolate!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Narrow Sashing Tutorial

I have the very distinct benefit of getting to see many quilts -- many more than your average hobby quilter sees.  I attend several quilt shows each year, probably on the order of 6-10.  On top of that, I quilt for people, and get to see (give or take) a hundred or more quilts each year.  The vast majority of quilts are good, but the more you see, the more you are able to tune into areas that tend to cause difficulty.  One such area I have witnessed is when a quilt requires a narrow sashing.  I happen to be adding these to a quilt I am currently making, so I thought I'd step through my process of attaching narrow sashings in hopes that this gives some help to anyone that does them differently, or with less success.

I have these pieced half-squares (half of a star block) that I layed out with a narrow sashing, and decided it looked great.  It's not really a sashing or a border, but they can all be dealt with similarly. It is just a different name that we call it.

First off, my block is paper pieced, and I have removed the papers.  There are some quilters that leave papers on before they have attached the piece to it's next unit, but I personally prefer not to have all those layers of paper in my seams.  I have cut the aqua pieces to be on-grain along that edge, so they shouldn't stretch.  Additionally, I am an avid starch-worshipper.  This block has considerable structure and would take good pulling to distort.
 Here is what my finished unit will look like.  The red sashings will be 3/8" wide when this is finished.  There is no room for error, as slight wobbles on that bold red will undoubtedly show.
The first thing I did is this.  Before the red strips were even cut, I starched the fabric twice.  This prevents it from shifting and stretching right from the start.  I then took great care to cut 7/8" strips. Here is where my actual technique will deviate from what I will tell anybody.  In actuality, you should be instructed to cut these red strips to a fixed length prescribed by your pattern or design.  I have clearly oversized them instead.  By cutting them to the correct length initially, you don't inadvertently stretch the piece when it is applied.  Have you ever made or seen a quilt with many borders and by the time the last border is stitched on, the quilt is about 4-5" larger than it is supposed to be?...I do see this, and they are a challenge to quilt because they don't stand a fighting chance of laying flat.
That said, because my pieces are starched well, and because I do take tremendous care not to stretch the pieces, then will lay flat.  I say that confidently.  The other thing I do (above) is I pin judiciously. This keeps the red sashing from stretching and keeps perfect alignment of these two pieces.  Don't skip the pins even though it seems simple enough to sew without them.

This seam looks pretty straight.  I gently press this open, then attach the next red sashing with pins and sew.  Here it is.

Before the next paper-pieced triangle units are added, one thing I did do was stay-stitch around the edges.  I did have some bias on these units.  I did the stay-stitching BEFORE the paper was removed. Stay-stitching after removing paper will cause a mess. (unless you like ruffly edges and stretched pieces).  Nah, didn't think so.
 Next the stabilized, paper-less unit is well pinned to the red sashing.   I may have pinned on this side...
But as you can see, I have chosen to sew it with the red side facing up.  There is method to my madness.  By having the seam facing upwards (the blue seam below, from when the sashing was initially sewn on), it doesn't wreak havoc on the controllability of the piece as it feeds through the machine.
 Press it open, and prepare to sew the other triangle.
 Other triangle...sewn and pressed.  I give the unit a gentle starching and pressing too.
 My seam is pretty straight, and of a uniform width.
 Are you wondering where these units are going?...I posted some design ideas here, but have moved ahead with one of the designs.  It's busy, and these fabrics have print to them so quilting will be interesting.  Despite my clear distaste for paper-piecing, though, I am making headway with the top. It is an easy thing to stitch on for 30 minutes or so each day if I have finished other client obligations. It's not like the applique quilts I have made in recent years that I stitch by hand, and mostly at night.
But, because this is mid-November, all of my show quilts have now come back home to me (for many months I had more than half of them away at any given time).  And they need their flat palate on the floor for storing.  I just don't like to store them all folded up in a box.  So, time is of the essence to get these 14 pieces put together so it can be moved.

On Friday, as things were progressing nicely, I more or less decided that something was just wrong.  I hated the way the center star looked...more specifically the part within the mariner's star.  Here's my original center... I thought that since the green was a dominant quilt color, I wanted it.  I also thought that I would like the red to pull the eye to the center of the quilt (the outer border of the quilt has a considerable amount of red.
Long story short, rather than hand stitching the center to the Mariners, staring at it for the next 2 months and hating it, I chose to pull more fabrics and try making another center.  It's not exactly a fun or fast unit to make either.  It has silk pieces, and a dozen hand pieced arcs.  Nevertheless, the 2nd effort is liked much better.
 Happy Sunday Quilting!

Monday, November 10, 2014

November Stuff

November is all about getting the Christmas quilts for clients done.  It is also about making an earnest effort to get my 2015 show quilts finished.  Both of these tasks are keeping me busy, despite having quite a few school closure/holidays this month.  My kids are older, and can manage to entertain themselves some of the time.  But as the temperatures are dropping (and those flakes start to fly) they don't want to be outside nearly as much.  It is hard to sew in the basement with the pitter-pat of 6 feet overhead.

Here's a rather poor (sorry) pic of a recent client quilt.  It is actually a lovely machine appliqued redwork quilt of birds  I wanted to keep it traditional, so the blank 4-patches are quilted with feathered wreaths.  These are free-hand quilted, so there are naturally some anomalies between each block.  The redwork blocks are always a quandary as to how to quilt them.  Sometimes I outline embroideries and backfill the background, but because these are machine appliqued, there is a LOT of detail...too much to stitch around.  I decided upon the pumpkin seed rather than my second choice (cross-hatch).  It makes the birds blur in  the photos, but they look fine in reality.
 This shows the birds a little better.
The border is simple, but pretty, and ties into the blocks with the feathered wreaths nicely.  I like this line of fabrics - they are really pretty in person.  Don't hold me to it, but I think that they are French General (or something like that).
 Right now, I have moved onto three edge-to-edge quilts.  It is so refreshing to do edge-to-edges when so much of my quilting is full custom.  It is always that double edged sword - the customs are where I learn techniques and improve my skills, but they are harder on the eyes, back and body.  I need a nice mix of both.

So...with that said, if you have quilts you might like an edge-to-edge on (AND you want them before the holidays!!) I can still take some of these.  Pass this on to your friends too.  Just drop me an email msolomo1@maine.rr.com

 I spent a couple days last week working on one of my next show quilts.  It's only a 40"x40", and still needs some "fixit" work, but most of the unquilted areas are now joyfully quilted!  That's a great feeling.  The quilting is very busy, but I am good with that.  The design of the quilting has altered the look of the original top (scroll to the bottom of this post for a before pic).  I also plan to add a good bit of bling.  I have held off adding crystals to most recent quilts, but this one is screaming for some.

I have one more bit of great news...actually a picture of the cover came to me while I was at Houston. On the first day I was home, this arrived in my mailbox!  I am tickled to have Autumn's Surrender on the cover of Quilter's Newsletter's next edition.  The article my editor wrote is great.  She did a fantastic job including several detail photos of this quilt (which really show all quilting details too!), as well as nice text about the quilt.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Quilting for the Holidays...some spots still available

I do still have some spots available for quilting that I could have done and mailed back to you prior to the holidays.  No huge customs, but plenty of edge-to-edge possibilities or smaller customs.  Email me if interested msolomo1@maine.rr.com

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Houston 2014

The 2014 International Quilt Festival (aka Houston) is finishing up this weekend.  I flew home yesterday.  It is astronomically expensive to stay there too long.  Plus it coincides with Halloween every year.  My daughter didn't appreciate my absence last year, so this year I came home.  Next year, Halloween is a day later, so who knows.   Really, though, a couple days at the show is plenty. 

I arrived Monday evening.  On Tuesday, I took an all-day class on machine applique with Sue Nickel (surely you know who Sue is...she and her sister Pat Holly have made several award winning quilts).  The class had good content, but really did not leave nearly enough time on the machines to practice.  Heaven knows I don't have time to practice now that I am home, but maybe.

Monday evening was the awards Winner's Circle.  It is a rather elaborate ceremony where each ribbon winner is called to the stage.  If you receive a first or one of the top 8 awards, then your quilt will be revealed around the boundary of the ballroom for people to look at after the ceremony.  I was truly hoping for a nice placement ribbon for the Geisha's Garden.  This is like my favorite quilt right now, and I remember all the thought that went into it's details.  Right off the bat...first award given was the judge's choice and it went to the Geisha's Garden.  It's not entirely what I was hoping for (hoping that this doesn't sound sour), but that is life.  Many enter with hopes of a ribbon and don't get that. We were about 1/3 of the way through the awards, when I realized that my quilt was hanging there though!  This made my day.  I was able to talk to people afterwards, and discuss things I did and why.
The judge Marti Michell gave the award.  She really loved the quilt.  She's a really nice woman; I had a light dinner after the ceremony with her and a couple others.  Sad though, is that she told me that it would have taken a high award in its category but the "judges" thought that the white was too white.  WTF?!?  it is a creamy ivory and in all honesty, I can't imagine it any other color.   Gracious for the award?...yes.  But that doesn't change the fact that I think this particular quilt show is overly, if not excessively obsessed with things that don't pertain to the quality of the quilt's construction.  I received that type comment last year and it is, plain and simple, wrong.  Winners should  be chosen because they are technically more correctly made.  Rant done, for now.
The next evening was the preview.  It was nice to see quilts without it being overly crowded.  I spent most of my time standing near each of my quilts talking to the many people.  Some knew me from seeing other quilts at AQS shows, while I got to meet many that know and read my blog.  That is cool because some days I feel like I have about three readers!  Thanks!!
This is my other quilt at the show - Autumn's Surrender.  It is in the Merit Machine category.   It is only one of a couple pieced quilts in this "sea of white wholecloths" category!  It won a 3rd place. Seriously, IQF, the ribbons shouldn't be so small.  This is Houston, afterall.  Make us feel like we won a ribbon in the most prestigious quilt show in the world.  They just love to taunt and mock AQS with the fact that their winners get to "keep their quilts", but do they realize that a 3rd at any AQS show wins a mere $750 (more than twice my 3rd place award) and a big ribbon, the same size as the 1st and 2nd.

This year marks IQF's 40th annivarsary - they are calling the show the Ruby Jubilee.  They have copied the red and white exhibit that was in NY a few years ago.  This display of modern-day red and white quilts is very cool.  Beside it is an exhibit of miniature red and whites.  It's a beautiful exhibit, very appropriate.
Houston is seriously the largest quilt show out there.  There are 350 competition quilts and about 3-4 times that in exhibits.  I stumbled upon this quilt...It's not so pretty or anything.  It was in an exhibition of solids quilts made from the American Made brand of fabric.  Last year I participated, and sent in the Maine license plate (middle row)...
 Here's a closeup...Cool to see all plates assembed together.
 While I do have WAY too many pictures to post here, I will try to show some of what was here.  Most of these are from the competition.  I think that these are from the abstract wall (?) category.  Seriously, there are WAY too many abstract, and animal and whimsical type categories to keep track of them.  What was interesting was one, the variety, but two, that sun quilt is made from something like 1000 1" circles, fused to the background - only 8 shades of orange and red to make that.
This quilt was made by one of last year's winners.  Honestly, their's all look very similar...Asian kids and that same dog, but what is most cool are the bubbles.
 Look closely at the bubble...all raw edge fused (and you do know how I feel about raw-edge!), but check out the colors used to make them so life-like.  Very cool.
 This quilt of mine hung at one end of the row.  It was a nice spot.
 Here's a peek at some from the hand-made category.  Do you sense a Japanese influence??!  Their handwork is amazing.  Lots of taupe.
 Some animals...
IMHO, this was the best animal quilt, but it didn't ribbon at all.  It is by Ferret, if you know who she is.  It is wonderful.  Sadly, it did seem to be a trend that great quilts went unadorned, and others that make you furrow your brow received very top awards.  Overall, the top award-winners seemed better chosen this year as compared to last year, but there were still some that made you go "huh".  Ferret's wolf is amazing.
This next quilt took a top $5000 award.
My friend Andrea had 2 quilts in the show...both very beautiful and well constructed.  She did not get a ribbon on either.  Point proven.  It just makes you wonder what the judges (and they are all non-NQA certified) are truly looking for.  Her hand painted, then appliqued silk flowers are exquisite.
Here's a glimpse at the Innovative piecing category.  I do like the double wedding ring a lot.  It has me thinking about taking this quilt off of my bucket list.
 Innovative applique... "Hurricane" (below) is awesome and I think it was 1st place.
This is the Best of Show.  It is probably not what you were expecting to see...It's by Nancy Prince, quilted by Linda French.  Nancy said it had 75000 yards of thread in the figures.  They are thread-painted, and then added to the background.  The detail she put into the people/animals was really amazing.

Here's another interesting exhibit...there were over 2000 star blocks collected in honor of an astronaut/quilter Karen Nyberg, who was on the space station.  They were put together into a sea of quilts - over 20-25 probably!
Here are a few from the Frances Benton exhibit.  She passed away a few years ago, leaving more than a dozen applique tops to IQA.  This year they got several finished.
I did the middle one on this row.  They didn't block the silly quilt, so it is hangs kind of wonky.  Oh well!  You can look back to sometime like May or June of this year for my closeups.
I flew home on Halloween so I could take my three little gouls trick-or-treating.  It is definitely back to the real world...trying to prioritize the quilts to be done.  I have several Christmas deliveries to get quilting on, as well as actually getting my own 2015 show quilts DONE.