Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bee Happy!

This week I quilted Lori Holt's Bee Happy quilt for a local client. It is bright and colorful, and just screaming for spring! This quilt is 72"x80" and has a ton of appliqued elements. While not every quilt needs to receive over-the-top custom quilting, I have a really hard time simply putting an edge-to-edge across designs like this, even when the client's budget may lean more towards that type of quilting. I knew that the budget was aggressive, but my goal was to optimize what she had hand appliqued to the best of my ability. 
 The quilt has just a single Hobbs 80/20 batt. Though wool would be my batting of choice for any applique quilt, the cotton is perfect for those everyday, high-use quilts. It is also a cost-conscience choice that many quilters make. In the end, how it is quilted will determine how much loft the appliques get too.
I chose a workhorse thread - white Superior Magnifico. This 40wt thread is one of three like this (YLI polished poly and Filtec's Glide are the other two) that I routinely use. What color I ultimately need determines which thread is used usually. This thread runs beautifully and rarely causes issues -- a plus when excess time to fuss with picky threads is not in the budget. Additionally, it gives the quilt a subtle sheen.

Anybody who follows my blog for very long knows I don't often stipple. I can't say I am a huge fan of it, nor do I find it overly attractive.  I teach a class and wrote a book (Dense & Dainty) all about freehand fills that could be used largely in place of stippling. What I will say is that stippling has its place. Many of the fills in the book are time-consuming because they are denser. The other driving force on this quilt is that all of the background fabrics have a print that will greatly obscure whatever pattern the background is quilted with. I weight that factor considerably when choosing a fill to stitch. If you go to the time to quilt it, it ought to show. Stippling enables decent "flattening" of the background, which in turn allows the appliques to pop.
Some of the other areas on the quilt such as the churn dash and pinwheel blocks were quilted differently so that they show off. This just gives the top variety. It also allows the simple linear quilting of the sashing and outer border to show more. Both of these relatively simple linear treatments provide nice variety, and are actually time efficient to quilt too. I like them.
 By going simple on the background for the reasons I described, I was left with enough time to ensure that all appliques were appropriately ditch quilted. This gives each applique clean definition, which I feel is important on this type quilt. I also added some detail quilting (using clear thread) on areas like the chicken wings, center hexagons, and other appliques upon appliques.
I should note one last thing. This particular quilt has numerous embellishments, mostly buttons of differing sizes. If you are making the quilt and will send it to a quilter, wait and attach the buttons after it is quilted. They make it hard for the quilter to get the hopping foot close in some areas. I also inadvertently knocked off a button too. This is risky because it could have damaged the fabric. I was lucky in that it will only require reattaching the button. This is just my simple two cents advice from actually quilting several quilts with buttons.

The quilt made it home to it's owner yesterday, and she was delighted with the result. That always makes me happy!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

New England Cabins (formerly Bahama Beach Huts)

I have been busy all week on a quilt I am not sure I am allowed to share yet, so I have decided to talk about the process of making a quilt with an 11-yr old. Recently, Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine published an article I wrote about quilting with kids -- most specifically it discusses my experiences of quilting with my kids. In 1250 words, though it is challenging to really talk about what works and what does not work. Here on my blog, though, I not limited by space.

This is my daughter Sophie's 2017 quilt.  When originally asked for a name to give it, she declined, saying she was bad at that, and I should just name it. It was near the entry deadline, and it just needed to be entered.  It will hang next month among the kid quilts at MQX, a show she has entered 4 other times. For the entry I named it Bahama Beach Huts.
You see, it came from a pattern (below) for beach cabanas, though we turned the door piecing right-side up because this just seemed odd. When she started the quilting, Sophie realized they did not resemble beach huts since she chose green instead of sand, and changed the name.
So this pattern came out of a Fons & Porter Fat Quarter Quilts magazine I picked up for her friend. Long story short...we gave her the magazine with a precut version of this same quilt for her birthday in December.  She has taken a basic sewing class, and has a sewing machine, and wanted to make a mini-quilt.  Feeling envious, Sophie doubled the fabric allotments and decided she'd make the same quilt herself. This was a good decision. Hook, line and sinker...I had her on the hook now to make her MQX quilt.

At the end of December, the girls got together for a day to piece the blocks. Here's the beach hut block sweat shop in my dining room. For the most part it was smooth sailing. Neither probably would have gotten as far as they did if the other was not there. Sewing as a team is a good motivator.
I brought up my sissy ironing board (not the "real" one that is 30"x 6'), and both did their own pressing.  In past years, Sophie has not ironed. Call me over-protective, but rotary blades and irons just seem dangerous to young kids! Not this year. When Lillian said she'd ironed, it was fair game. My only request was that the starch be sprayed away from the wall. That seemed like a reasonable request.
 Here they are...lots of little hut blocks in the making.
 Nothing like the 11-yr old hammy model to show us what she's made.
The finished top is a mere 30"x36". It is really a perfect size for a youth quilter. Twice as large may seem more functional, but making a functioning quilt was not the point. Having an educational experience that has a manageable start and end was. The one thing I know is that overwhelming the child, regardless how interested they seem initially, will only make them disinterested.
The weekend before I went to MAQF, we endeavored to quilt this. It really was about as late as it could have been pushed, since it is being shipped to MQX in a week. One of the biggest challenges of quilting with kids is that they don't typically quilt regularly. Every year when we make a quilt it seems like there is a memory game of trying to recollect what was learned the past year. I do try to bring new motifs and techniques to her project each year so as to broaden her horizon and further educate her about quilting. But really, she just cannot longarm weekly, so we have to do our best.

I envisioned her possibly playing with a freehand grid-based design over the houses initially. The longarm was loaded with a sample house block as well as a yard or so of cheap fabric on which to play. As it turned out, the wiggly grid was inconsistent and harder for her than I anticipated. Probably should have marked it on a straight grid, but when the child does not like it, move on. Lesson learned.
She played with some freehand ideas, some of which I marked partially and then she freehanded. These were motifs that could go on the block - like wind and clouds. For whatever reason, loops are still hard this year too! 
I have to give it to her, though, she has vision. She said she wanted to do bricks for the house. A couple of big red flags went off with this request - first, these might be the only brick beach huts I have ever seen (hence the quilt name change!), and second, Oh very beginner 11-yr old quilter wants to quilt bricks. BRICKS. She is stumbling with loops and wiggly lines, but is asking about bricks.

Not being one to discourage her, I marked off some bricks (above) and away she went. Surprisingly, they were not as bad as I expected. Brick houses they would be! This meant she had a LOT of marking to do, but it was necessary because crooked tiers of bricks would not look very good.  Might as well mark the clouds while you are at it.
It was a weekend adventure. I simply clear my client schedule for a few days so that I don't need to rush her. We take the quilting in small manageable bites of 45-90 minutes at a time. Of course, bribing her with the remainder of my xmas candy canes afforded a little more time! Use the tools you have, I always believe!

Though she is getting taller, the kitchen step stool is really a necessity. It puts her up where she can see everything. Disregard the "still in pajamas" "unbrushed hair" "I'm a careless 6th grader" look. There is no dress code in my studio.
Now, let me show you her top after the quilting, then I'll talk about what was done in each area. Because this is our 6th quilt, she is able to do several different "stitches" or motifs. Not very many of the youth quilters approach their quilts with a custom quilted look. More are done using an edge to edge. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; we did two of them like that previously including a twin-sized bed quilt. These little houses just called for something more, and she knew that.
Using a light aqua YLI polished poly thread, the "wind" and clouds were quilted in the sky areas and across the roofs. She had to very carefully backtrack along the ditch of the block so that this could be quilted with minimal start and stops. She has learned to use the electronic channel locks, and used them to help her ditching lines stay straight.
 She picked a fun pink-purple variegated Aurifil poly thread for her bricks. I think she did an amazing job on this, considering how very much control this design really requires. Sure, there are places where the backtracking is not ideal, but hey, she's 11!
Here's a closeup...
Next, a bright green YLI thread was put on the machine to do the "grass"...zig-zag lines, the straight lines of the door and the "plants". Her greenery for the flowers got a little out of hand occasionally, but quilting with a child is a game of live-and-learn (not sew and rip out).  The zigzags were freehanded to give texture. The doors were quilted with marked lines using the vertical channel locks. She was striving to create a semi-realistic look, and I think she succeeded. We had a plan to add flower buttons to the "greenery" and door knobs to the doors later on.

She finished the quilt with parallel lines in part of the sashings, and a box design in the inner border. I did discuss with her that I thought that the sashing and inner border ought to be quilted in one design because they are the same fabric, but ultimately the decision was her's.  She has quilted this box pattern extensively, and is comfortable with it, but somehow it was stitching slowly this particular day!  The outer border was finished with 1" parallel lines stitched using the channel locks, just stitching in from the edge of the quilt and back out. Last year she learned how quilting these another way (which requires backtracking along the ditch to the next line) can cause problems when the backtracking is not ideal. So, we changed it up this year so that ricrack would not be needed! LOL

After the binding was added, we went shopping for the "details". At first we bought sparkly flower buttons, but the shank on them was too large making them not lay flatly. Plan B was to create sparkly flowers from my extensive stash of crystals. Seriously, what pre-teen girl can't use one of these tools??! She was a natural.
She created some tall flowers and some round ones.  I kept using the "variety" word - in reference to shape and color. Yes I love orange, but not for all the flowers.  Mix them up a little.
We also bought some little "critter" plastic buttons. I hacked the shank off with a serrated knife, and they were glued to the quilt at the end.

Here's a look at one of the houses, complete with all the details!  I love it...great job. 
 The owl is perfect, as he is rolling his eyes. Someday she will understand the irony of including him.
 Her favorite, no doubt, is the hedgehog. He may be a porcupine, but don't tell her!
If you want to read more about our quilting adventures, here are links to her 2014 quilt, 2016 quilt (scroll down), and a general post.

Making the sewing project a big craft project engages the child from the beginning. I still need to get together with her friend Lillian and help her finish her quilt too. Although we tend to time her sewing/quilting projects to get an entry into MQX, mostly that stems from her enjoyment of coming to the show with me and seeing her quilt hanging too. Since she was a wee little thing, barely 4 or 5, I took her with me to the shows. I hope she continues to enjoy this together time that sewing brings.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fun at MAQF

Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival has been on my short list of shows I have wanted to attend for some time. Though I have entered it many times, I have never attended. This is the second year that they have offered longarm classes, and as luck would have it, they invited me to teach! I was delighted to jump at the chance, even though it adds to my crazy winter.

I taught six 4-hr hand's on long arm classes over 3 days. I knew it would be an exhausting week, which it was. Three of my classes were 12-person classes, and three were 24-person classes. It's the latter ones that keep you moving the entire class. Twelve students is busy, but in a controlled manner. Twenty-four just leaves you needing a nap when the class is done!

I taught my two favorite fills classes - Dense & Dainty (the freehand fills) and Beautiful Backgrounds (grid based fills) on Thursday. Here are my students hard at work in the well-cared-for Innova room. Matt and Keith keep the machines humming right along.
 I don't usually take a full-class staged photo at the end of class, but I did manage to catch a few of my students showing off their lovely samplers of gridded fillers.   Both classes are freehand, but this one utilizes a marked grid on the fabrics.
Dense & Dainty had 24 students (the other 12 non quilters were busy drawing when I snapped this photo). When I split the class into groups, I send 12 to the longarms, and keep the other 12 at the desks. A timer is started to keep things fair. Then I continue to present designs and concepts for about 1/2 of the session. During the other half, the sitters get to draw while I go around to each machine helping each quilter. It seems to work well.
 Here's a better look at one of my samples that was quilted for this class.
On Friday, I had a beginner Feathers class as well as Templates 101. These are both intended for those who are truly newer to quilting feathers (or templates). The feathers class is the 24-quilter class, which works well because there is a good amount of drawing.

Here are two of my Templates 101 quilters working with a straight template, a 12" diameter arc and a 4" circle. Patterns are relatively simple at this level, but are the foundation for all more complicated designs to come. The ladies did wonderfully.
I used to teach a templates class called Ruler the Roost which was a good class, but the true beginners struggled a bit. Splitting the class into two distinct levels worked much better. 

My classes Saturday were Narrow Borders and the Creative Templates 2. Narrow Borders, the large group, quilted about 24 borders suited nicely to borders 3-4" wide or less. These start simpler and get progressively more complex as borders get wider. Most quilters did great with them.

Creative Templates 2 is the second templates class intended for those who already do basic template designs like line work or crosshatching. I was so worried that the sampler I had planned for this class would be way too complicated, but the students rocked it.  I taught them how to make mandalas, and how this design may be altered with small changes. We did cathedral windows, as well as a couple of fun background designs that are implemented with a stencil and a template.
 Here is the other background design quilted with a 4" circle.
 This quilter had the cursed blue thread which hides nowhere, but she still did a great job!
It was a good teaching experience. The staff has been well-coordinated and excellent to work with from the first communication. I am definitely impressed. Thanks to my 108 all did a fantastic job too. Keep me posted on how you use what you learned!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Others' Renditions of my Quilts

Over the years when my quilt Zen Garden was showing, I received numerous requests about if I had a pattern. At that time, I was not really interested in patterning it. I really was not sure that I wanted other people making "my" quilt. Time passed, that feeling faded, and then AQS asked me to do the book shown below. This was their last published book, although it was initially conceived to be a series of books where there would be other similar quilter's stories also published. The book contains patterns for three quilts, as well as many large color photos of the quilts. 
I fought hard to have the interior of the book be something that I am proud of. It is all color. The patterns detail how to make the quilts using both paper-piecing and regular piecing. There are lots of instructions and line diagrams for the quilting motifs that I chose. This book has 160 pages! 
 detailed piecing instructions and quilting diagrams
That said, I really was not sure how realistic my quilts would be with the general quilting public. They can be complex, and getting what was inside of my brain at the time of their making into a book was truly challenging. 

Never the less, in the past 2 months, I have heard from 2 quilters who have endeavored to make one of my quilts. I am so blessed that they chose to share their creations with me.

The first one is Molly's rendition of my Zen Garden quilt, shown below.

She did a remarkable job matching the star to what I did in terms of colors. It just blooms! Her outer borders were altered a bit. This photo has the quilting finished, though I suspect it is difficult to see without the ability to zoom. She did a great job!
The second quilt is by Tracey B., an Australian quilter. She has made my Bouquet Royale quilt (shown below). 

Her color scheme is considerably different, but it looks like some of the hexie blocks are still fussy-cut. Being a huge fan of purple and aqua, I could have seriously seen myself using these colors (if I was not completely smitten with orange at the time!).

A couple of weeks ago, she also sent me a couple pictures of the quilting in progress. She's using some of the motifs I designed for this quilt, as well as choices of her own. I cannot wait to see this finished. It is absolutely stunning at this point!

Where can you get your copy of this book?...on my website (right sidebar) as long as quantities last or on the AQS website. If there is anybody else out there working on any of these quilts, please feel free to email me and share your work. I love to see it (and only post it socially if I am told it is ok).

Happy Friday!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Here is another stinking cute wall quilt sent to me by a long-time client. It's about 42"x42" and has some cottons and some wools for applique.  For lack of it's appropriate name, I call it the Neighborhood quilt.  She sent a thin cotton batting, but I added a layer of wool to really pup the appliques. Additionally, these reproduction prints are known for being "busy", and busy prints hide the quilting designs.  Having added batting makes the relief of their quilting designs that much more visible.
I pulled a soft yellow variegated thread by YLI for the background. The rest of the houses got either pink, green or purple thread - whichever type matched best. Although it is not really visible, there is also some stitching in black on the windows and doors.  I just wanted to give the appliques some definition -- window paning or an echo on the door. 

 The stitching on the houses is often very simple, so as not to compete with the prints. Linear designs are usually better for these fabrics.  Every now and then, though, I threw in a brick or block pattern though.
 I just love the scalloped roofs. These are freehand clamshells. Most of the designs are detailed in my Dense & Dainty book.
 Making some of the lines go horizontal, while others are vertical makes the houses more visibly interesting.  When there was room, puffs of smoke was quilted coming out of the chimneys. It is a whimsical village with hints of realism.
One last pink house...
 Backs are always fun to see when they are mostly solid.
Today was a "fun" day, and I use that word loosely, packing up teaching things and books to ship to Virginia. I have a whopping 140lb of stuff, AND I plan to check 2 very large suitcases. Teaching 6 classes takes a heck of a lot of stuff. I have a bit of prep still to do for one of my new classes, but the others should be autopilot by now!

This weekend I get to shift gears and help my daughter quilt her newest quilt. All I can say is thank goodness it is nice and small!