Saturday, February 28, 2015

BOS Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival & The Jester's Folly

Thursday morning started with a bang -- a good sort of bang.  No, make that an awesome bang. Picture this, it is 6am, and I just have my coffee.  The rest of the house is asleep.  I went to my computer to check up on things before I went to quilt on a very time-consuming Baltimore Album quilt.  I knew that this was the opening day for Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, but I also knew they were getting a snow storm, and the usual people I might know going, were not going to be there until Friday.  News tends to filter slowly from this show unless there is a person you know on the ground, so to speak.  Anyhow, I had a number of emails already, and a message from my sweet friend Sherry Reynolds of congratulations.  My quilt Big Bertha, which I will not show because everyone has seen a bazillion pictures of it, it won the Best of Show!  This is such a bittersweet win for this quilt.  It is at most 3 shows from being retired.  It is aging out, and has run the show circuit hard for 2 years, racking up many awesome awards.  It is the reason my family can afford to do a 2 week trip to Europe this summer!  It started it's shows at MQX in 2013 with a BOS, and this is very close to it's end of life, so another BOS is delightful.

A while later, one of the vendors posted a picture of my other quilt that is at the show.  Let me introduce you to The Jester's Folly.  It is the 38-ish" silk quilt.  I have showed a few snippets of it's creation, but realized that finished photos were never shown.  This quilt won the wall quilt's Best Machine Workmanship award!
It is made from a stack of about 12 hand-dyed silk Radiance fat quarters I bought in Houston in 2013. I added pieces of other colors that I had leftover from other quilts.  When I bought the silk I was fully into my silk phase.  It quilts beautifully, but is not forgiving to hiding errors if you might want to!   Though I designed the top on EQ, it was clearly a "design as you go" top.
Here's the finished center section.  The band of piecing making up the empty space (above) was made that way so that I had enough of each color to do it!  It was a bit avant garde, never conceived as being the octagon that I brought out of it in the quilting.  For those of you that don't work with this fabric, I interface all piecings before I cut them with Pellon Bi-stretch lite interfacing.  It is a tricot interfacing that leaves the silk still feeling silky and pliable.  The hand is essentially unchanged.  The raveliness of the silk is controlled with the interfacing.  BUT, the interfacing makes the seams thicker, and it is more challenging to get nice points and great matches.  I did try extremely hard! This center block, in fact, was designed to "float" so that I would get the points.  I wasn't on the ball though when I designed the outer row of HST's -- I had to be really careful because the silk made it harder.
The last border was another case of "I don't really have enough fabric so I will piecemeal something together with this olive silk that I have more of...".  You get the idea.  I often avoid straight frames in my piecing because they must be quilted perfectly to remain nice and straight, and nobody wants non-straight quilting lines.  Didn't avoid them this time.  I designed the little spikey flowers in fuscia and blue to break up the green border, and to bring the center outward.  Copying a design from one area of a quilt to another is critical to creating cohesion.
 Some of you may have followed my progression of this quilt on facebook, where I floundered around on the use of tiny circles stitched on the points of the points.  Many readers thought that the top didn't need them or was not enhanced by them.  I went my own way, though, and added them anyways.  I'm sort of a rebel like that.  Every time I looked at the top above, I thought of a court jester, and his hat would have the little balls on the end of the points.  I added them, judiciously.

So, without further adieu, here is the finished quilt.  I like to show the top before quilting so you can truly appreciate how much detailed machine quilting can transform and even alter a mostly basic pieced top.  I think that this is a perfect example.
Aha...I am seeing the light bulbs going off, as you are seeing the octagon I was talking about.  When I sat down to design the quilting, I immediately saw the octagon, and saw it as a way to get rid of that wide olive border I placed on the center star block.  Using a wide border was my way of enlarging the quilt, simply.  Creative quilting easily masks the fact that it is boring!
So one of the most common questions I get from quilters is "how do you know what to quilt where?". Sometimes it is obvious, other times, it comes by drawing several wrong choices.  One thing I can say is that to keep this with the Jester theme, I knew I needed the 30-60 diamonds.  They just speak the theme.  So O placed them as you see below, in the rather large-ish dark green corners in a cluster of 3, AND (remember that wash-rinse-repeat thing) - you got it, repeat the diamond motif into the inner border too.  To give some variety, the diamonds end and straight parallel lines run into the pink jester-spikey things.  They really oughta have a name!
One other thing I chose to copy in terms of the quilting is that curli-que.  In the background of the HSTs, there is this serpentine line, with curli-que hooks on each end.  I liked how they hooked around each other in the corners, because they were also visible in the blue quilting and the corners of the octagons also.  Curli-ques are whimsical, sort of like a Jester, so this seemed in keeping with the theme.  Feathers were used sparingly, as they almost seemed too formal.

The outer border, which if you remember I used straight lines on against my real wishes, needed the curved quilting to soften the edge.  My style of quilting can be very rigid and geometric, and curves help to juxtapose that.  The arcs of pebbles tie into the octagon of pebbles, making that a repeated and useful motif.  Sections of pebbles can be pretty, but they can also be monotonous and over used.  I prefer to use a motif judiciously and with purpose.
I tend to repeat many motifs, right down to cross-hatching (using a 1/2" curved hatch in the HSTs) as well as 1/4" in the outer border.  They are different textures, yet similar.  A word about using lines to get a design to show...It was a challenge to get that octagon to be a prominent design feature.  To do this, there are two parallel 1/4" lines, pebbles, and then another set of parallel lines.  Tip to remember - if you want a design to show on an otherwise busy background (while the solid silk is not really busy, the multi-colors and way I pieced it make it busier than a single fabric), you must stack parallel lines.  One stitched line will vanish.  Two parallel lines will show, but only a little.  Three parallel lines, which create 2 ridges of positive  space, show more.  You get the idea...Places on this center design that show prominently had the design quilted with more than 2 lines!
I added what have to be the largest crystals I have ever used - some are size 30 and 34!  I just hope that they are still on when the quilt arrives home.  They were being a little persnickety the day I mailed off the quilt.  
Last fun thing to show you is how I like to torture myself with silly bindings.  I have done things like this before, but this one was the, an odd 32.5 degree angle.  But I love the way the border blends right into the binding.  I am just not a fan of turned-edge facing-type bindings.  I don't like them and when I tried to do one last year it was a disaster.  This is my approach.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.  Hope you tolerated the long quilting discussion.  Many people ask what goes on inside my head as I design, and this is it.  And if you are lucky enough to be coming to MQX in April, you should be seeing this quilt hanging in the show!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Making the NYB units

OK, so in between stitching on a Baltimore Album quilt and blocking 2 others this week (and mind you these don't really leave much extra time -- only that I choose to steal for my own sanity), I started on the little spikey NYB units.  They finish about 5" up the straight side, so not so large, and I need 24.  

First error was Monday when I cut all the pieces of blue and purple.  Unfortunately I didn't discover my error until yesterday.  Would seem that I cut enough pieces/triangles for about 16 blocks, not 24. Not sure what I was thinking, but it sure would have been easier to have cut all I needed then, rather than having to pull out 25 fabrics all over again!  Anywho...Here's what I am doing to make this (the curved missing portion/quarter circle  will be added by machine once all of these are made.  They look really pretty in person.  What doesn't convey well in photos are that some of the fabrics are gilded with gold.
This part of the unit is paper-pieced.  It's far from my favorite job -- kind of messy, slow, but it works for these.
Here's the back.  Before I go on, I have stay-stitched on 3 sides within the seam allowance to keep the bias edges from taking over the piece.  I do remove part of the papers beneath the purple spikes before the next few steps because the piece is easier to handle that way.
I have printed a template for the lavender quarter circle.  Disregard the templar piece shown in the picture, as I initially thought I'd applique the piece to the PP unit.  I changed my mind!
Let's look at how I am making these 1/4" (or slightly more) bias units.  It's a technique I learned this past fall in a Sue Nickels class at Houston.  I have used bias bars and bias turning w/ iron gizmos in the past, and they can work, but often the bias pieces feel stretched, or they require starch to make them hold the press.  This is easier.  These strips are 3/4" and cut on bias.

In my hand, just roll the 2 edges into eachother, and put a running stitch to hold it together.  It is relatively quick, and satisfies my need to have on-the-go projects.  I do NOT press these.  They are a little easier to work with unpressed.   You can press after they are stitched in place.

Next I use a tiny amount of glue stick and place the bias strip where I want it.  You could use pins, but they are a pain in the rump.
With a fine thread like silk or Wonderfil Invisifil, hand stitch the top edge of the bias strip to the PP unit.

I always print out a real-size pattern to have as a guide. 
 This pattern helps me to know that the lavender arc is where it belongs.  I also lightly glue this into place.  As a sidenote, if the lavender arc is cut a hair large, like 1/8" or so, then you have a little play in the stitching, and it can be trimmed to size after stitching.
Because there are lots of seams under that bias strip, it is important to trim things down as much as possible.  Keep the paper-pieced seams at 3/16 ", and you still may need to trim some areas so these aren't too bulky.

 Only another 23 more to go!..

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Something of my own

Some of you may remember this from last September.  Boy how time flies when it is winter!...I haven't touched it since before I went to Houston at the end of October until last weekend.  It had been laying around with numbered labels and I just decided I needed a couple "me" days while the kids were still home.  Client quilting resumed on Monday.  Though I do plan to rip apart the center compass and alter it's alignment (aka - it is slightly not centered up and down!), here is the center portion of this next quilt I am working on.  Even though I loathe paper piecing, I do like to have a pieced quilt to work on.  It is generally fast piecing, and easy to make good progress without massive invested hours.  It is definitely colorful, which I am just fine with, but I am constantly thinking about ways to "ground" it so it's not a colorful runaway.
I have the papers printed for the outer border of spikey things.  They will be the colors shown - purple and aquas, but I am playing with the other colors a little to tweak the cohesion.
 I am playing with the color of the outer square ~2" border, considering the deep red, a cherry red and green.  I have also done a small 1/4" bias applique strip in one of the pink fabrics on some of these.
 Each possibility has its merits to the design so I have some thinking to do while I make the NYB sections.
 Who knows, maybe I will get these pieced before summer vacation is over!
 I have a Baltimore Autumn on the frame right now which is occupying most of my working time, but to have the pieces and papers cut and ready, I can sneak a little piecing time here and there.

Do you have a favorite layout, and why?...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Fat Tuesday!

This is indeed Fat Tuesday, and brings me back to memories of my teenage years, when I lived in the south and we celebrated Mardi Gras.  Now I am old, and live in the northeast, and get to lookout at all the snow!  It is vacation week for us.  I am doing a little quilting, but mostly playing catchup on doing nothing and maybe a little paperwork/writing.  This is a quilt I finished up on Sunday.  I was having issues with the timing on my machine, so against my desires, I finished it on the weekend so I could take my machine to Sanford Sewing yesterday for the annual check up.   Jean sent me 2 seasonal's well past fall, but this should be all ready come this fall to display and use. Sorry...I do not know the designer.
 It is a 50x51", and I found a scrap of wool batting large enough for it in my studio.  If you have visited this blog, then you know that I am a reap advocate of using wool on applique quilts so as to get the poof under the appliques.  I just hate to see someone put all that work into appliqueing only to have them lay flat and lifeless.  A thin poly batt on top of thin cotton is also a good solution.  Poly and wool will not compress like cottons.
 All appliques and piecing are ditched, and then a simple custom quilting is stitched.  I like to keep the background quilting light and fun, throwing in some leaf motifs.  The main goal is to quilt it densely enough that the appliques pop, and that the designs are featured.  Dont you love the candy corns?! (not to eat though - bleh!!)
 I used several shades of SoFine 50wt thread.

 Nothing is overthought.  There is simple variety in the quilting, but not enough to hopefully be busy.
 My next quilt from Jean is a Christmas quilt, but it will wait until I am back from MQX!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quilt Finished and Home

Here it is, at long last.  This is Jackie Kunkel's (of CV Quilt Works) Bird of Paradise quilt.  If you are lucky enough to live in Arizona, you'll likely be seeing this in a couple weeks!  You are lucky for many more reasons too, not the least of which is that it's not really winter there!

This quilt is 76-77" square, and is hard to lay out anywhere to see the entire quilt!  Lighting in my hallway is hit or miss.  This is a Judy Neimeyer quilt.  It has a single layer of QD wool batting, and is stitched predominantly with YLI polished poly (my personal fave!) and Glide threads.
 It is so heavily pieced/appliqued, that it is indeed challenging to find places large enough for infusing quilting design into the quilt.  The other thing of difficulty is that many Neimeyer quilts, and this is no exception, are made from batiks, and the prints tend to obscur the quilting.  My client requested denser quilting and ditching so that the appliques and points are preserved.  There was A LOT of ditching - something like 8-1/2 hours!  Many quilters omit ditching out of their personal aversion, but this quilt really needs it.
 The appliques have limited quilting on them.  They are a little stiffer than typical appliques because there is a foundation still in tact.  I wanted some quilting on the appliques, but not enough that I had tension or shredding issues.
I like the color palate of this quilt a lot - would love to see it done in Hoffman 1895's with a less printed look!!
 Jackie has her hand's full getting this bound in just a few days (shall we all say "better her than I"!!), but it should be home today.
 There are a variety of dense fillers to contrast each other.
It was a fun quilt; hope it is liked!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Followers Button and No Reply

In the last week I have received numerous requests for "how do I follow you"?...Sorry, though relatively tech-minded, this wasn't something I knew.  I have researched it and added a button to the right in my sidebar.  Give it a try and see if it works.

Likewise...if you leave me a comment, and have your settings still set to Blogger "No Reply", then you will never receive the answer to your questions from me.  Please alter this in your settings.


Friday, February 06, 2015

Much Awaited Reveal of the Ladies of the Sea

I first saw this quilt when I went to Paducah 2 years ago...The original design has massive and densely appliqued borders.  I thought "there's no way in my lifetime I could (or would) ever do all that applique"!  It is a phenomenal Sue Garman design.  Each block has so much detail...just wait!...

As you know, we have had nothing but snow, snow and more snow.  All my photos with flat light, so squint and look closely.  Some of the textural details are hard to catch.  FYI...this has a single wool batt and is stitched with So Fine 50wt thread in ivory and Madiera Monolon for the ditching.  There were 12 bobbins worth...nearly 3 miles of thread.

My client Stephanie (thankfully!!) left off the busy borders, and opted for 7" plain.  The fabric she chose is a good quality muslin.  She'll probably tell me it a specialty sail cloth or something else.  It looks similar to muslin, but is heavier, resembling a sail.  It finishes somewhere around 95"x 65" so it is challenging to get all of it into one photo.

My first challenge was to create interesting quilting for that wide open border.  The blocks had limited space for immense creativity, but that border is screaming for fun.  Quilter's fun.  I copied the mariner's star from the corners to the center, but only on the top and bottom borders.  The others were shorter and I left them off those.  I have wanted to use this undulating feather design for a while now. It does take a little bit of marking to know where the straight section will intersect it, but I was free to mark on the borders.  Fabrics on the main quilt were forewarned to potentially bleed so no blue pens there!

The outer area of the border was densely stitched because I wanted that feather to pop.  I think I went over it 3 times in fact -- the last 2 times in a slightly more tan thread.  I was attempting to give it a subtle color shift.  This next picture might show it a's kind of like scribble with thread.
The star has lovely, crisp points because it is completely ditched in clear nylon!

 Here is the stitched star, just to copy the pieced motif into the quilting.

One of the more challenging aspects of this type of quilt is trying to find good places to put creative designs.  There isn't much room in each block.  I chose the sashing corner-stones. I treated them as though they were not part of the sashing.  My goal was to bring the feathering of the borders into the main body of the quilt, as well as give some variation to the quilting of the middle of the quilt.  I didn't want it to look like block, sashing, block, sashing, etc.
Every ship is different.  I have hunted for some description of each, but I guess that only comes if you buy the patterns.  You'll have to just see them through my photos... This particular ship has some massive rigging, which is all embroidered.
 The backgrounds of all 15 boats are identical.  The rays was a last minute decision - I knew it would look fabulous, like looking at a sunrise, but at the expense of time.  Going in all those rigging cracks took a while.
The blocks also supposedly have appropriate floral/fruits that would be indigenous to where the ship came from.
 Being from the Navy family, her anchor is great.  Too bad I don't know where the boat is from!
I am not a fan of the dimensional flowers...they were a bit of a headache to work around.  Too bad the designers don't realize this.

 I am thinking that this must be one of Columbus's boats...seems fitting.
This is one of the simpler ones.  The stitching done on the masts to make it look like bamboo is amazing.  There were a couple done like this.
 Now onto a little bit of backside eye-candy...
 In case you are wondering, I opted not to quilt on any of the appliques.  They are all ditched, but I wanted them to retain their loft since the quilt itself was heavily quilted.  The other factor in this decision was that I did not want green and brown threads messing up this beautiful view.  The unobstructed texture is perfect.

And with that...its time for  me to go be Mom and make dinner.  Coming in a couple days...Jackie's Neimeyer quilt which came off the frame today.