Monday, December 26, 2016

Two Christmas Projects

Last week I foolishly decided on Dec 20 to make up a couple of very last minute presents.  I often make gifts, but have been turned off in recent years because I never but never see what I make in one of their homes.  Maybe I should take a hint. Probably, definitely.   But Christmas was being done at my house, and both sides of the family would be there.  It would be more awkward to make something for one and not for both.  Seriously, it is not like I had the time for this.  I have a couple client quilts I really needed to get quilting on, but I have been working out issues on my new machine, and one of them is still prohibiting doing anything very large.

Last Sunday, I sketched these runners up, and had them mostly cut out within about an hour.  No time to overthink anything.  They are simple and use the pretty fabrics as the "show". I had the tops pieced within 3 hours on Tuesday, still quilting on a client quilt. My window to do the quilting was when the client quilt was done...Wednesday.  Keep it Simple - that was the rule.
I have made a couple of other seasonal runners for my MIL - spring and fall I think.  This is the Christmas/winter one.  Not sure if I hit the mark or anywhere close to it judging by her always questionable expressions while opening, but I like it.  It has some great red and gold fabrics I have hoarded for many years.
 The other runner is in blues, my mom's favorites.  It's dark, but hopefully not too dark.
 Gray is something of an unlikely choice, but it lightens up the design, and shows the feathers.
 These were done with Glide and YLI Polished Poly threads.  Single batting.  These dots have the worst machine applique known to man, but I lacked time for the handwork.
I even did both bindings by machine.  Happily, the binding is just about the best machine binding I have ever done.  Not having the corners did help.
 Few more close-up shots...

Christmas is just not my holiday.  Too much greed, and hyperness.  Why can't people just give one appropriate gift, selected specifically FOR the recipient?  It always bugs me when a gift is chosen because it is something YOU like, but then the recipient is like "huh?"  I always get these.  There's a few that are special, and then piles of not-so-special.  We all need to work harder to just seek out the special, Oh well, it is all over.  Everything but the lingering 400 boxes in our garage, and the stuff all over the living room.  I need another nap just thinking about it all.

Anybody with a 14, soon-to-be-15 year old knows that they don't willingly say "take my picture", so we have to hold onto the few we get. It may have come with a bribe of Thai food.  I'll never tell.
 And here you have it, the 2016 forced-smile family photo.  "Smile once, and we can all go eat.  Be goofy and grumpy and we'll try this all night".

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A newly finished oldie & a discussion on ettiquite

For those of you that don't know, I sold my Fusion 2 weeks ago.  It was a bittersweet moment as the new buyer and I took her apart, a month more than 7 years after I first put her together.  We made hundreds of great quilts together and started a business together.   What you may not realize is that while I was in Houston, I bought a new machine...a new Fusion!  It was installed 10 days ago - just 3 days after the old one headed to its new home.  I have been working on a few of my own quilts to "work out the kinks", before tackling a custom client quilt.

I finished a couple of small things 2 days ago when I got that wild hair to do something for myself. Somewhere near 6 yrs ago, I made this runner for myself.  The blocks were made from fabrics used in a block swap I participated in.  For whatever reason, I had 9 or 10 leftover blocks after the quilt was made, so a few runners were made.  I kept one of them.  This would have been sometime during the first year I had the old longarm.

 These particular star blocks were actually made by me, although most of the blocks on the quilt were made by others.  You'll see that in a moment.  I quilted it fairly simple.  It was pretty, but nothing terribly special.  A 50 wt So Fine thread was used.  This thread is great, but it is flat and appears somewhat utilitarian.
I didn't know how to make feathers then (or not at all well!).  It was also apparent that my machine was having a timing issue too, as there are places of skipped stitches.  What always bothers me is that when clients come to drop off or pick up quilts, we use my dining room.  It always has a runner on the table, and not a one of my runners were quilted in recent years.  They may have nice colors and piecing/applique, but the quilting is not in any way indicative of what I can do.   I am often ashamed. It was time to rectify that.
 Here is the quilt where most of the swap blocks went -- all in the same color scheme which I love.
I quilted this right before I went to the Handi Quilter retreat in the fall of 2010.  It was done knowing it would likely be in the ad that was being shot during the retreat.  I tried to quilt it as good as I could! Here's a peek at what the ad looked like...This is actually a banner that hung at trade shows.

 So, rather than doing this the right way (remove binding, then skin the quilt top from the batting and backing, I foolishly did it the hard way!  I basted fabric to the binding and loaded it all to the longarm.  I then proceeded to remove the quilting section by section, requilting as I went.  Had I done it the right way, I'd have added a layer of batting...something it really needs. Oh well.

 I used Glide threads on all of it.  This 40wt thread has a pretty sheen, giving this a more formal look.  It is also much more densely quilted -- more to my aesthetic.  There's much better ditching, and more ruler work, feathers and cross-hatching.  It is just a nicer quilting, representative of my added 93 million stitches of experience!  Yup, that was the stitch counter when my machine was sold.

If you have gotten this far, then I have a very important thing to discuss.  You may have discovered that you are not able to right-click and save photos from my blog.  Many people do this so that they can repost them somewhere else.  Less reputable folks do much worse.  I believe that these are my work, and my property, and I don't want people to do this.  You may also have noticed that I have an explicit copyright statement on the right sidebar too, asking you not to use my materials or photos without my consent.  Artists should not have to write this, but I have.  And I do expect others to respect that.  I make quilts for show, and create techniques that I teach, and do NOT want them to be widely dispersed by others.  This is my livelihood.  Please respect it.

I have recently discovered many photos were taken by a website called QuiltersHub, as well as many others that post them to Pinterest.  Quilting Hub posts quilters photos, but receives income for every person that visits their site.  They are profiting off of us, without our consent, and it is wrong.  Please take note that I will stop sharing things if this continues.  The large watermarks on my photos above are really irritating to look at, I know that, but I don't want my information copied against my will just because some of you know how to do it.  Too many people that post and repost to Pinterest don't bother to give credit to the artist.  Even if you do credit the artist, GET THEIR CONSENT!

Thank you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Snow Day Tip

Don't expect to get Snow Day Tips too often.  I certainly hope I don't have to create very many of these!!  Not being a fan of that white crap (and the icy freezing rain stuff that is falling on top of the 6" that came down last night), I don't have too many things that can be productively done today while all 3 kids are home.  

My new long arm is being installed tomorrow, and I had planned to go out and start my xmas shopping today.  That plan was foiled!  So, here you go - here's a post getting back to the roots of what this blog used to be - something quilters could get advice and tips from!

I have been hand appliqueing these borders since the beginning of last month.  The will go onto a quilt I pieced earlier in the fall.  While I finish the stitching on the 3rd and 4th, I removed the marks from these.  As is so often the case with applique, there was a little distortion of the background fabric after all the pieces were attached.  I removed marks, and tried to press them, but they still looked like this. 

Never fear, though, there is always a solution, and one that I have used before, so I was confident it would work again.

I took the borders, and pinned them onto foam core board, taking care to keep the first edge nice and straight.  It is not stretched, just pinned on.  I ease the opposite side into what looks to be the right location.  I am pretty sure that the bias vine is the culprit of this issue, so as I get the opposite long side of the border pinned, I also pin the vine .  It is being slightly stretched, so that the entire border will again lay flat.

As an aside...There are many ways to make these vines, one in particular leaves no stretch at all. BUT...I used the bias-maker tools, which of course sometimes do stretch the material.  Had I waited 3 weeks to applique the vine onto the quilt, the vine would have probably shrunk back to its original length (facetious - maybe it does not really take 3 weeks).  But, again, I immediately basted the vine onto the quilt so it could be appliqued on.

Once the pins are all in place, and the border is nice and flat, I spray the border until it is all soaked. This is when knowing that all fabrics were in fact presoaked leaves me without so much as an iota of concern that these gorgeous fabrics might bleed!  When the border is dry (I leave it 24 hrs), remove the pins.  It will be flat and perfect!!

Monday, December 05, 2016

It is December

It seems hard to believe it has been several weeks since I last posted, but I have been technology challenged.  My computer died, without little warning.  It was related to an automatic Windows update that it just couldn't work right with.  The reality is though that the computer needed replacing.  It has just been a challenge replacing ALL of the software my older computer had.

My longarm has sold -- it will all be official this weekend when the buyer comes to pick it up.  I am very excited to be getting the new one set up next week!  I just hope the new buyer knows how great that machine is.

I have done a fantastic custom quilt that I am not really allowed to show.  I am hoping that a snippet of the backside does not get me in trouble.
 Since my machine is going away on the weekend, I cannot load the usual jobs I quilt because they won't be done in time.  I did this small-ish class sample last week.  The applique is mediocre at best, and not done by me.  My class is A is for Applique and will be a design-centered class with a focus on applique quilts.
Christmas is coming; the snow that fell today is a cruel reminder of that.  If you've been around long enough, you know how much I really loathe the holidays!  Never the less, my youngest wanted to go see Santa yesterday.  He's a really good Santa too.
 This past weekend, I whipped up a quick sample from a couple charm packs of Shot Cottons.  It is in the process of getting a bunch of grid-based fills.  It's not exactly a fast task as I have half of the piece remaining!

 Sneak peek... Yup, black thread is daring!  if not crazy.
I will be back soon...with more interesting things to show!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Beautiful Applique

Since last Monday, when not dealing with the horrible inconvenience of my computer's untimely death, I have been quilting away at this very large and very awesome applique quilt.  I often get repeat offenders as a hired quilter, but this is the first time I have gotten to quilt this particular Kim McLean quilt.  It is wildly whimsical!

It is also massively sized, bigger than my 8' hallway floor.  The lighting yesterday was not perfect for photos, but life with getting my new computer up and running took precedence over obtaining perfect photos.  You get the idea...

 The black and white background fabric is practically blinding to quilt for too long.  Everything starts to blur.  For this reason, I tried to make the job a little easier by using a dark purple thread.  It is a Polished Poly by Glide.  Boy, if you have not heard me say it before, listen now -- I love this particular thread!  To break up the fill, I have a 1/2" linework pattern used both on the outer applique border, as well as in random places on the blocks.
 This is the top border - somehow the photo did not rotate properly.
 The client sent a wool batting.  This is why the appliques have nice poof.  Never the less, they are large, and I did have to do some quilting on top of most of them,  About 6 or 7 different thread colors were used for this.  Such is the life of a very colorful quilt!
 I tried to keep the quilting on the flower appliques light and whimsical.  I don't want anything too realistic or traditional (aka stuffy!).
 Mostly the quilting is just helping the appliques from appearing floppy on account of their size.
 One more look at what 705000 stitches looks like! will be on its way to Virginia before we are eating Turkey next week.
Yesterday, I decided to make use of time as I wait for a quilt to arrive to me.  It is one of those that will have a quick turn around.  This quilt on the frame is actually mine!  It has been boxed and waiting for inspiration for a sad year.  Wait no more...It is getting finished and soon.  It really only has a few things to go and it will be ready for blocking and binding.  It will most definitely make the spring shows.

The red outer border was started, but I was questioning what I was doing so I ripped it out.  While I still sort of question the turquoise part of my plan, I don't question it enough to remove it!  The colored dense quilting will be a different look for me.  250000 stitches of different.
 There are 3 40wt poly threads used on the outer border - deep green, deep purple and turquoise.  It is always surprising how some colors appear when stitched on a colored fabric.  No pink thread was used at all, despite the appearance!
Lastly...I am selling off this Wonderfil Fabulux thread to anybody that is interested.  There are 11 3000yd cones of 40wt variegated.  It retails for $24 per cone.  I am selling for $15.  Email me if interested.  The colors are nice; I just find that I rarely use the variegated if ever.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Handi Quilter Longarm FOR SALE!

One of the best parts of my trip to Houston is that I bought a new machine!  I could never stray from the Handi Quilter family - these machines are too great.  My recent purchase means that I am selling my beloved Fusion (hopefully soon since my new machine is shipping from Utah tomorrow!).

It looks like this... (ok, this is actually my quilt and my arms.  The photo was taken for some 2010 magazine ads!).  For those interested, here are the specifics on my longarm...
24" throat
stitch regulated (or non if you choose)
laser light for doing pantographs
side spool pin for small spools of thread
includes the ruler base
includes the bobbin winder and 20 or so bobbins
includes micro-handles
12' studio frame with underneath batting bar
I have original box that the machine head came in
has upgraded machine wheels & carriage wheels

My machine is 7 years old, but has been cared for meticulously.  Did I say "METICULOUSLY"?...I meant it.  Every year it has been serviced by my licensed HQ dealer and maintenance shop (usually not because it 'needs' servicing, but because it ensures optimal quilting).  Note that the only required servicing this machine has undergone is for timing.  It has been amazingly reliable for 7 years.  If you have followed my blog, then you know just how many high quality quilts I do every year.  Those speak for the integrity of this machine.  I could not possibly quilt the competitive show quilts on anything but a great long arm.

I am anxious to sell this to a motivated buyer -- someone who I hope will love quilting with a Fusion as much as I do.   The machine is located in Gorham, Maine -- this is approximately 1 hour north of Portsmouth, NH and within 4 hours of RI, CT, MA and the fringes of NY.  

Buyer must transport machine.  I prefer for the buyer to be present to disassemble the frame if possible, but this is negotiable.  I still have original installation instructions.  If the buyer is within 3 hours driving distance, I will throw in 1 day of training if desired after you have set up the machine. Please leave me a comment and way to reach you if you have more questions and please make sure any comments that are left have a way to reach you.


Sunday, November 06, 2016


Houston is a wild and crazy place.  It is like the annual mecca for quilters of all ages.  Some go for classes.  Some go because they teach, or vend.  Others go because they have quilts in the show.  But many, many - on the order of nearly 100,000 go to see the massive number of quilt exhibits and the acres of vendors.

Me...I went because the IQA paid for my trip.  Like, seriously, was I going to pass up on this once in a lifetime opportunity?...Heck no!  

I entered 2 quilts, and both of them received awards.  I was notified in September that one of my quilts was getting a top-8 award.  They would not tell me what it was though.  They do like to keep suspense.

I flew to Texas early on Tuesday, hoping like crazy to make all my connections.  The awards was that evening.  It's a big affair, with many of quilting's known faces attending.  The 1st place winners in every category, as well as the top 8 winners are hanging in the ballroom.  As each award is announced, a black drape is revealed, showing the quilt.  If you kind of know where they tend to hang the particular categories, you can assess whether you think your's is hanging :-)  When they did the Merit Machine Quilting category, though, I saw the drape, and whispered to a gal beside me "this is your's...mine is too large for that space".  But to my surprise, I was wrong!  My wholecloth actually won the 1st.  It's pretty exciting when both of your quilts are hanging at the awards!

Thanks to having been to the awards previously, I also believed that the $5000 top awards were all to the right of the stage.  It was clear none of those drapes could cover my 80" quilt.  I was pretty excited.  By the same token, I knew the BOS drape was too small.  That narrowed it down!  

My Bouquet Royale won the World of Beauty.  It is an awesome award, and hangs on one side of the BOS quilt in the show.  I could hardly be more delighted to have won this.
 This was taken at the awards.  My new silk scarf was a perfect match to the quilt!
 Here's From the Bride's Trousseau...flatter than ever.  It is really nice how Houston cares for the quilts.  I blocked it just prior to shipping, and specifically asked that it not be folded.  It has clearly not been folded.  It should return home in pristine condition to send to Road to California.
 Here's a glimpse of a few of the quilts hanging in the awards.  I did not take any other photos.  Usually there are too many people blocking them.
 The top winners hang in the show with lovely signage, a chair to rest your weary self on, as well as the largest coordinating bouquets you have ever seen.  These arrangements are all different too, and they match the quilts.  The flowers beside the best of show were in shades of blue and white, and had the most fragrant lilies.
Here is the signage about my quilt.  
And my flowers...  I would have loved to have taken these with me.  It is bigger than most arrangements you see at weddings.
 They don't let you roam around the show incognito either.  I had that lavender rosette (which matched my lavender ribbon) signifying I was a top winner.  You can't even go into a bathroom in secret!  It really is a big deal, and they do treat their quilters with lots of appreciation.
One last shot... (look, no pins in quilts either!)

On Wednesday, there is a winners luncheon.  It is free to all ribbon winners, and us top 8 get to have to make a short speech.  It is hauntingly nerve-wracking, but fortunately we all know about this in advance and can somewhat prepare if we want.  I just remember my knees knocking, and thinking how thankful I was that I was not first, nor was I hungover.  It's cool to see these quilts hanging there above us, as we ate spaghetti noodles, on display for the 200+ guests!  I hope we were neater eaters than watching my 14-yr old gobble down spaghetti.  Digressing...

So if you were not present at the luncheon to hear my knees knock, here is a transcript of my speech. We all spoke of different things.  Believe me, I had serious envy over the Korean and Japanese ladies whose English was limited.  It seemed like a great advantage if you were nervous.  Life goes on...

I am so blessed to be here with all of you, and to share my passion for quilts with you.  Thank you.

Three years ago, I made my first trip to Houston.  As a seasoned traveler, let me say that this   trip was quite typical for me.   I missed a connecting flight and spent the night at the Newark airport.  With all of my sharpest sarcasm aside, this was a pivotal night for the inception of this quilt.  I had recently discovered the elongated hexagons or Patchwork of the Crosses that Lucy Boston popularized over 40 years ago.  Despite thinking I hated English paper piecing and the oh-too-traditional grandmother’s flower garden designs, I found myself in that airport with a sewing box full of fussy-cut hexies, and absolutely nowhere to go.  Using my former-engineer ingenuity, I devised a way to piece the hexies without the nagging papers.  By dawn, I had several blocks hand pieced and was finally boarding my flight to Houston!  The beginning phase of this quilt did more than piece a few hexagons together.  It kindled a full-fledged love of hand piecing which continues to this day.  I am somewhat unique in that my profession is to quilt by machine, yet my choice is to stitch the top by hand.

After completing 25 of the hexagon blocks, the wild garden of blooming color and prints needed a serious taming.  Otherwise, it was going to take a far better quilter than myself to make any quilting visible. It dawned on me that my love affair with silk was possibly going to save this quilt.   I made a renegade choice to marry the bold cotton hexagons with a satiny silk background - something I had never seen done in competition.  I had no idea what judges might think of my unusual choice.   The silk would supply the perfect place to show-off detailed machine quilting, an absolute must for any quilt I would later show.    Thirteen shows later, I know that being unique and unorthodox has paid off.

If Bouquet Royale never made it to the Houston stage, I would still be overwhelmingly proud of her successes.  The reality is that Houston is one of this quilt’s last shows.  So, as the journey of this quilt comes full circle back to the trip that inspired its first stitches, I look back proudly.  The journey wasn’t without bumps in the road, but it was a passionate endeavor I hope all quilters may experience.  I challenge each of you to dare to be different.   Do a few of those things that the so-called quilt police tell you not to do.  Your quilt; your rules.  Invent a better process rather than using one you already know, just because you know it.  Do a new technique or use an unlikely fabric because you can.   Use colors that simply make your heart sing - like orange.    Who knows, three years later you might find yourself here at this podium.

As I conclude, let me say a personal thank you to the judges who found my quilting special and unique.  This is the type of feedback that keeps me coming back to this job which I love day after day.   Thank you Brenda and Handi Quilter for giving me the best long arm with which to create my quilts.  Allowing me to grace the side of one of your trucks is an added perk too.   Thank you Vicki and Meander Publishing for giving me a great magazine to write for, and share my quilting experiences with other aspiring artists.  Six and a half years ago, a fellow quilter suggested I enter a quilt in a show.   I had no idea the creative fire that would unleash within me as a result.    My journey has been like a Cinderella story.  Don’t be afraid to Dream Big -- You never really know where those dreams may take you. 

 Back to the real show...How about some quilts?!...

This is the winner from S. Korea and Cynthia England, standing with her BOS.  It is all machine pieced.
My photo probably has better zooming, but I liked the photo with them in it too.  I think Cynthia said it has 4800 pieces.  That's a whole-lotta pieces.

This is Mickjung Jang's quilt that won Best Thread Artestry.  The entire design is stitched in thread. She and Bethanne Nemesh were originally in the Merit Machine Quilting category, before being bumped to the top awards.  I definitely capitalized on their success too (or else my wholecloth would have taken 3rd!).
 Melissa Sobotka's very real replication of pillows from Istanbul.  Her quilt is called Silk Road Sampler.  Much can be done with fusible and batiks if you know how!  This is not a photograph.
 One other quilt, which happened to get the Best Contemporary Artestry award is simply amazing.  This is Unknown Man by a pair from Brazil.   He is hauntingly gorgeous.  So is the quilt.

Here is my little silent auction piece.  The auction does not close until today.  When I left yesterday, an Aussie quilter and Handi Quilter were in a bidding war.  We'll see where it goes (both told me that they really want it !).
 I took a few pictures of the thousands that were hanging.  It can be inundating looking at the many special categories of quilts.  There are about 10 times as many "other" quilts as there are competition quilts, and many are just as good.

by Barbara Lies - gorgeous color and the black you see is her signature cutaway technique.
 This is from a special exhibit - love all the critters.
 From Susan Carlson's special exhibit.  This quilt is at least 20 feet long and so cool.
 Here is a closeup of the gator...a photo really does not do it justice.
 Many Dear Janes were on display.  Naturally green and purple caught my fancy.
 And a new quilt by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison - seriously, this will win big in the coming years.  It has subtle beauty in the piecing and Jan's signature amazing quilting.

I loved getting to stand by my quilt and talk to many, many interested quilters about my quilt and my processes.  There are the probing questions which I love, as well as the 4000 times I am asked "how long did that quilt take to make?".  I met several of my long-distance clients and many bloggers or facebook friends.  The community is connected in so many ways.  Yesterday, still, I had to say goodbye to the warm 80's of Houston to fly home to Maine, where winter is approaching.  It was indeed sad!  I had these gorgeous flowers in my hotel all week that I got at the awards.  I hated to leave them - seriously, how often does a girl get a dozen roses and then some?!...I snagged a bunch of the mini yellow roses, and headed for the airport.  When I awoke this morning, I discovered my family had gotten me an arrangement of red and yellow roses too.  What a home-coming.