Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Santa time is almost here

...and as far as I am concerned, that day just can't come soon enough!  All of the hype and anticipation of Christmas drives me crazy.  Heck, the holiday candy goes into the stores the day after Halloween, and we're doing pre-Black Friday sales in October.  My kids are junked up on xmas cookies, wildly excited, dying to not go to school...it all makes my head spin too fast.  

If you are still looking for that nice and modest gift for the quilter in your life, Machine Quilting Unlimited has a lovely 2016 calendar (www/mqumag.com).  My Bouquet Royale quilt, which will be at Road to California next month is on the cover too!

The plan all along had been that December would be when I reload this quilt (above), and get it finished.  I had planned the timing of the quilting well, so that my client work would be slowed, and the quilt could actually get finished in time to enter this spring.  But then the facebook bomb dropped. A quilter that you all know accused me of copying both her piecing and her quilting.  It is the biggest load of shit I have heard, excuse my French - but I am still incensed by this.  I consider myself to have more than enough creativity and talent to create my own designs.  Furthermore, if I were going to copy someone's quilting, it would be a better quilter than her.  Seriously, have you seen anybody else quilt the motif above?!?...No.  She's imagining it, because that swirly thing I stitched in the triangles was drafted by me.  Some people think that if you quilt anything that is slightly different from the style that you usually use, that you are taking it from another.  Simply ridiculous.  I was LIVID, and angry and hurt.  It completely took the wind out of my sails the last month.  I never use other people's patterns, not even for  simple use quilts.  So with my motivation to touch this quilt zapped, I think that is why I pulled the next one out of moth-balls.

I have spent the last week puttering working on this quilt.  Though I told myself I would quilt it with a "who gives a bleep" attitude, just aiming to get it done, that does not seem to be how it is going. Today is the 7th or 8th day, and I am just seeing the bottom of the 72" quilt (and there are many large holes still to quilt).  While I don't know if I love it, since my tastes have definitely changed in 4 years since it was started, it is looking reasonably decent.  It's no best of show, but it will probably go to at least a couple shows to see how it does.
Batiks are a PIA to quilt.  That is why I have largely gotten away from using them.  Hand-dyes are nice, but batiks have too much print to obscure the quilting.  As a result, I am using heavier threads like 40wt Glide (with a sheen), and even a few very fine threads just to get dense textural quilting (silk).
 This is the center.  I actually really like how this looks (even if there is a large unquilted space still!).  Using several sets of parallel lines sets off the design nicely.
I am still working (more like waiting) on the silk hexagon quilt.  I have worked out a design for the outer border and block layout.  It needed a custom dyed orange silk.  I thought I ordered it nearly a month ago, then it took like FOREVER to arrive, and did not match.  I have since sent a swatch to someone else to dye me a yard.  After the holidays (probably when I am swamped with class prep and client quilts), I will get back to finishing the silk top.  Goal is to have this quilt set to enter at MQX midwest in October.  Seems overly ambitious.
Have a good holiday, whatever it may be.  Maybe I will just blow off everything and just go to see Star Wars on Christmas.  Seems like a good idea today :-)
What?...don't you make Yoda gingerbread cookies?!?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Playing in the Swamp

Playing in the Swamp is the name I affectionately gave this quilt when it was started nearly 4 years ago.  February 2012 are when the first photos of me strip piecing the center star.  I took a few days in August 2014 to assemble the units into 2 large pieces (minus the mitered borders), but nothing has been touched in nearly 1-1/2 years.  A couple weeks ago I sold a top I made around the same time, in an attempt to clear out the clutter of my studio.  I figured if I hadn't quilted it yet, it probably wasn't happening.  While I considered selling this one too, as my interests have more turned to the silk quilts rather than batik, I knew it would be a hard sell to make if it were in pieces.  Last week, when I finished the Ladies of the Sea quilt and was waiting on fabric to arrive for something else...while I was cleaning up pot after pot of 11-yr old barf every hour, I decided to try to get this together.  I managed to assemble the pieces and borders, and then something clicked.  It was really pretty interesting.  But if I was going to bother to quilt it, it would have to have the points of 16 intersections fixed.  That was my Thursday.  
Via Facebook, I queried folks on what color diamond points would be best between a red, teal and blue.  Almost unanimously, the response was red.  So I went with my first instinct - royal blue. While I am intrigued to hear what others will do, I felt that the blue drew the eye to the center of the quilt best.  Finding visual center is an important goal for every quilt.
With the top done (and mind you, you'll hear me fuss plenty while I am quilting this, as it is far from great piecing.  The applique blocks have more cleavage than I do), I decided to ponder the quilting. This will absolutely NOT be one of those quilts I overthink.  I am not that vested.  But, I do want it quilted.  Since the quilt reminds me of a swamp (the greens are textural like frog or alligator skins, and the water lilies seem appropriate), I wanted to add dragon flies into the outer border.  There is a good amount of blue background to fill, and make more interesting, and this is one way I will break up the space.

Here's a picture from a dragonfly I used on a recent silk whole cloth.  I pulled out the pattern, and scaled it up a little to make it better sized for this space.  The one below is painted to increase it's visibility, but I don't think that will be necessary on the Swamp quilt.
I traced the outline onto template plastic, and cut it out.  I will need to make 8 of them and this is the easiest way to get them all the same.  A lightbox isn't really possible because the background is so dark.

I uploaded a shot of this quilt to Photoshop and drew away yesterday.  This is 1-2 hours of sketch time -- about all I really plan to devote to this quilt!  The dragonflies will be stitched in the corners.
I have a couple more templates to cut for the butterfly blocks.  Someone asked me a month or so ago about my Press-n-Seal method.  This is it... Place Press-n-Seal on a block you like, and trace the design with a Sharpie pen (very carefully so as not to mark the fabric).  Now place this on a piece of cardstock.  I use file folders or used cereal boxes.  Cut out the piece you need a template for - in my case, I wanted this scrolly thing that represents the flight of the butterfly.  The cardstock is easy to trace onto the quilt with chalk.

 Another peek...
I did get this loaded late morning today.  I will post pictures as I progress.  Hopefully I will make good progress before boredom sets in :-)  Usually I like "no think" quilting projects, but I wonder if I can stay that way throughout the entire quilt?!?

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Ladies of the High Seas

 Sue Garman's Ladies of the Seas is the most incredible applique quilt I think I have ever seen.  The number of patches, and the immense detail of the designs is mind-boggling.  As much as I think I love applique and am relatively good at it, I am humbled when I get a quilt like this.  It scares me to be privileged to quilt it.  It is that good.

 Remember back in January of this year, I did another variation of this quilt.  It had 15 boats and did not have the massive borders.  It still took what seemed to be an eternity.  After posting photos of that, I received 2 requests to quilt the same quilt again.  This is one of them.
 I spent over 13 hours just ditch stitching all of the appliques using a Madiera Monolon nylon thread.  When done correctly, this thread is essentially invisible, especially along the lighter toned fabrics.  Darker colors do give a subtle sheen if you are not completely in the ditch.  On this quilt, as compared to the last one I did, I omitted ditching all of the ship's riggings.  This enables all of the sails to retain their poof.  I like this decision considerably better.
 The borders are massive, and they really don't leave any space to do much that is terribly creative on my part.  It is all about the applique, so I stitched a dense fill that is easy to get into all of the many nooks and crannies.  Background fill stitching is done with a Bottomline thread, which is 60wt.  It matches the background fabric, and leaves only texture behind.
 I used a heavier weight (40wt) thread along the corners of every block, as well as along the triangles and the corner stars.  It is a gold YLI polished poly thread.  It doesnt show in the photos, but in real life the color and weight make it more visible.  It would have been too much thread for the dense fillers though.  I am always secretly seeking ways to create secondary patterns, even in the tight spaces of these blocks.
 Look at these gorgeous borders...Each one is over an hour to ditch, and then another 3 to do the rest of the stitching !
 The boats are so fascinating, as are all the flowers.  I always seek to create quilting that compliments such designs without overwhelming them.  The inside of the wreaths is very much like what I did on the last Ladies quilt.  Obviously I still love this design of simple waves beneath the boat, and the appearance of a sunrise/sunset behind the boat.
 If you are wondering how I do the rays, here is a quick tutorial.  And yes, they are marked.  It is kind of hard to get this effect with all the sails without marking.
I created a template from a file folder with 10 degree rays cut out.  It is placed over the boat, and marked.  I then go back and mark the 5 degree lines too.  It is oh so easy, and very effective.  Just takes some patience and a straight template.
I'll leave you with just photos because this post is taking me forever to write (on account of one child that has had a double-ended intestinal bug since 2am...and we all know dads are useless in the middle of the night).
 This will be shipping home to it's owner in a few short days.
 And the mostly solid-looking backside...lovely texture.

Hope your week is going better than mine :-)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Christmas preps

I officially have finished all of the quilts needed to be done before the holidays.  I had a call about one last one about 10 days ago, but she never called to schedule a drop off.  That window of opportunity has sailed, as I loaded a big quilt a few days ago that is not destined to be done for another week.

Here's two from a long-time friend of my mom's, and a prolific quilter.  The first one is a panto I have had for years but never quilted.  It's sort of dense, but quilted up reasonably fast.  Sure wish more edge-to-edge quilts came in because the break to not have to design custom quilting is nice.  It's like the Italian Fresco painter who gets to paint walls with a roller now and then :-)
Joan also came with a second quilt.  She never comes with an agenda.  She's happy to have me do what I think best.  Most often, her quilts get edge to edge quilting because they are busy with prints, but this one was different.  The piecing was simpler and the fabrics could handle showier quilting.  A month ago she showed up with a pile of red and green small cuts to ask me what I would do.  This is kind of what I drafted, and go figure, she had it done within a few weeks!  When she dropped it off, I knew it had to get into the "finish before xmas" pile.
 She fussy-cut the bird fabric to frame 6" blocks with birds.  The frames of red and green are 1-1/2" wide.  I treated the two borders together when I did the quilting.  This keeps the quilting simpler, faster, more economical, while not losing any of the softness for the lap quilt.  I really just didnt want to do excess ditch quilting.
Three quilting designs were used - parallel line frames, swirls & holly leaves, and a ribbon meander.
 The Gold glide thread was perfect for a holiday quilt.  Most of the fabrics had a gold gilding on them too.
 The beast I have loaded is another Ladies of the Sea.  This is 88" square and has the very detailed appliqued borders.  I cannot fathom making one of these quilts.  This is absolutely the best applique I have ever seen.  Curves and points are perfect, and there is not a stitch to be seen.  Quilting it makes me nervous!
 So far, I have done over 13 hours of ditching every applique, and some of the other areas.  I am awaiting a thread order that BETTER arrive today (it has my background thread in it!).  I am a sitting duck until it is here.
Off to get busy...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Puff puff puffins!

This is the 3rd of 4 quilts I quilted recently for a Maine client who happens to live in Florida.  Smart lady!... with winter coming, that is where I want to be, more than words can say.  This was a challenging quilt for me.  Initially I told her it was well suited for an edge-to-edge, but she wanted it custom.  So, I pondered on, and tried to determine how to make these little guys look more like birds.
 It is challenging when the piecing is block-style!  This is what I came up with.  The birds got feathers on their wings.  Not sure if it is visible, but I used a blue-purple variegated Aurifil thread on these and the blue water background.  This particular thread shows up on the deep navy/black of the birds.
 The pieced blocks were sort of a no-brainer.  They just needed quilting in a pretty way, maybe create some secondary patterns, etc. I like these.
Many people don't know what puffins are.  Some that saw a picture of this quilt before it was quilted thought that they were penguins.  Puffins are similar, but they are indiginous to the coast of Maine, as well as outer locales.  I simply tried to give them a little bit of personality - clamshells for body feathers, pebbles for a face and a beak.
 The background (not sure it shows) is just a swirly water quilting.
 Hopefully it is cuter than just an edge-to-edge.  I think so.
 And for those who want to see a puffin, here is a picture from the quilt's backing.
It's a short week, so I can't muddle through too much trouble in only 2 days.   Sadly, though, trouble has a way of finding me anyways.  Life goes on.

Happy Turkey day~

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Two baby quilts

Many quilters look at baby and child quilts as the perfect avenue to go easy and do an edge-to-edge. I am not so lucky, most days!  My clients send me quilts to do because of my custom quilting.  So, I get to make all the sweet baby quilts look fantastic.  These are actually jobs that are super fun to quilt because they are on and off in under a day.  The ones here took me on the order of 4 hours each, give or take.  They are actually a little lighter on the quilting than I often do, but this makes for a very drapable and snugly quilt.
 This one is for Jan, a very prolific quilter from Napa.  She is often sending baby quilts as well as others.  Her typical quilt though, is appliqued.  This one has just a touch of applique - the birdies and some text.  Applique this large would benefit from having either a puffier batting or stitching on the applique, BUT...there is piecing underneath 2 of the birds, so I opted not to stitch on them.  I personally, remove the back fabric, but I am reluctant to do this to someone else's quilt.  They are still very cute.
 I chose a simple triple stitch/argyle effect on the gray squares.  Though not clear, the stitching lines are both white and pink.

 Here's a look at the back, which is mostly a lighter fabric.  Pretty, gentle texture.  I love a densely quilted quilt, but really, not all need this, and not all want to pay for that.  Simple and pretty is enough.
 Here's a second quilt, but for a Maine lady.  It is relatively simple too.  It's basic so that the fabrics and quilting can show.
 The one thing I had to do was something interesting in that gray rectangle.  We agreed on quilting some of the animals from the fabric in an aqua thread.  I made templates from a cereal box, using Press-n-Seal.  I think I have shown you this (if not, then it is a good tutorial for another day).
 Here's a closeup of Dumbo...
 And the hippo...
 I discovered rather early in the quilting process that I was probably short on my budget (ie, her max cost was in jeopardy if I just quilted as desired!).  Two reasons for this were the two flanges I had to deal with (yes they are as big a pain as you might think!), and she asked me to center a panel on the backing.  I gobbled up 1/4 of my budget before I had taken a stitch!  I had to get creative with the patterns to make the most of my time.

But...I am a sucker, and rather than doing fast feathers, I started with the overlapping swirls in the white area.  They were not nearly as fast as I hoped!  My problem, not hers.  I chose something a bit simpler, and geometric for the large panels of animal and dot fabrics.  Often prints look best with a simple/geometric quilting, as it does not compete with the prints.  Clamshells was ideal.
The border is a 1"-1/4" bead board, which stitches reasonably quick, and looks fantastic on outer borders.  It, too, does not compete with the polka-dots.  Here is my back...YES - it is actually centered.  I don't do that everyday, and I did warn the client it might not be perfectly centered.  It is flannel and super soft.
So, I am down to just a few quilts in my studio, but they are doozies.  There's a large Neimeyer star, a big custom of another pattern, and another Ladies of the Sea.  Not sure if I will conquer these before January, but it does feel good to have all but 2 of my XMAS quilts done, and most of the smaller stuff finished.

I have to return to getting my teaching goodies ready next, as well as a show quilt that may or may not be ready for MQX.  The quilting is still not finished.  My personal motivation is largely to blame. I am writing patterns for a couple of quilts - boy who knew how much work that would be?!?  You probably think I forgot about the hexagons.  Not a chance - They are just about to get the backing pieced so I can have some hand applique to do.  I want that quilt ready for the fall shows.

...sigh, the crazy lady clearly has her head in the cloud.

Quilt on, friends!