Friday, May 30, 2008

Colorful Quilting with Rayon

Do you have a box of rayon and other colorful threads?
There are so many new threads on the market now, like wonderful new polyester ones that behave nicely and are strong to hold up for embroidery machines.
But maybe you have been collecting threads for a long time. I realized I have owned some of this thread for over 20 years:

The spools in the cup and basket are Natesh, a beautiful rayon from India. I thought they would be all dried up and unusable,but I was delightfully suprized to find all but one were in good condition! And the one that wasn't was just suffering from slipping off the spool...when that happens, you save it for crafty purposes (tassel making or stuff-between-fusible-sheets fabric).
Does anyone remember a great business in California called Aardvark? Jerry Zarbaugh published the best newsletter ever (more like a newspaper!), along with the mythical country of Aardvarkia, in which all the readers could claim a title (I was the Countess of Clutter...and still am!). I know there are still some Aardvarks out there who still miss her after her tragic death in 1988.
That's where the Natesh came from.

I had the perfect project to give some of the vintage threads a try out. Since it is also a UFO on "the list", this turned into a win-win for me!

Say, that reminds me of a Dianne Hire quilt! Because it was started in a class with her at the SSQA Symposium in 2005.....where I also met the mysterious Ms. E and her squid, but that is another story!
"Quilters Playtime: Games with Fabrics" (Dianne S. Hire, AQS, 2004) is a good book to get you started in free-style piecing. You can see some of her work and classes

I was planning to use complementary (opposites on the color wheel) threads in each section, but then thought if they made a visual blend it would just dull the colors. So I went with same-color choices and had a ball just doodling with my sewing lines, no templates, no stencils.
These are small blocks (approx. 6"sections) and didn't need a lot of thought.
I tried some shapes and designs I'd seen on other quilts, and also let some fabrics tell me what to do. This was really a good playtime!

By the time I got to the purple sashing-like parts, I was all thought-out and just went for a nice outline! But the back looks pretty cool:

Sometimes I must remind myself to GO FOR IT! Just do it...who cares, nobody is watching! And if they were, they would be hard up for entertainment!
Most of us are not making quilts for competition, yet we seem to worry about an unseen judge.
If you spin around really fast, you might see that's you!

So go make some quilts the way you like them, and even though "the judge" knows all the problem areas, she (he) will like it, too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quilt Basting: Necessary Evils continue...

OK, the backs got made...but now comes the basting before the quilting.
This has got to be the biggest roadblock to completing a quilt (yes, there are other rival steps... but this is the most common).
Of course, it may also be what has led to the fantastic rise of the LongArm Quilters! I salute the people who have gone into business quilting for others. You are a service industry in soooooo many ways....mainly by allowing quilters to skip the basting phase, as generally the three layers are loaded onto the machine separately.
Meanwhile, back at my house, it's DIY 24/7!

Basting means unloading the table in my studio, dragging it across the hall into my bedroom (it has wheels, but I wouldn't say they roll...), and opening it up.

It's one of those craft tables, a nice height for standing up to work, and has the two sides that open up and down (a gate leg table, for you furniture enthusiasts). The top is thin enough to hold the backing with bulldogclips.
A smooth back is the crucial part of basting.

Here is the table in action:
That's the backing for the quilt I am doing for the church.
You can see where I added the strip to make it long enough. Now that I am quilting it, that has come in handy as a way to help ID the top of the quilt.
Even though C.C. showed me how to spray baste, this still turned out to be a real trial. I suggest that for large quilts, you still need two people to handle the layers (or four, maybe eight....).
Here's another one, but small:

Well, by the time I got around to remembering the camera, I was done! I even did another quilt the same day, but was so focused on finishing the basting, I forgot the camera.
I like to bring the backing around to the front, then pin it to the border. That covers the batting edge and makes the quilt easier to handle.
You may remember this back from a previous post. That's my Monkey Business quilt pattern, "beta tested" by a dear friend, and I am quilting it for her. After three years of waiting!
I wonder if she is reading this blog and recognizes her top?
I bet she will still be surprized when the quilt arrives!

Colorful Delivery!

Sometimes you open the mail box and all that's in there is some bills and a couple ads for services you can't imagine using.
But sometimes, you find a nice envelope, and inside is:

Now this is what I call a Colorful Delivery! 15 squares of Moda Marbles from the mysterious Ms. E (you never know where she may be!), so I can continue doing something with that "Exploded 9-Patch" piece I made.
Very thoughtful, and appreciated! There's nothing like fabric in the mail box to cheer up the whole day!
These will be put to good use, maybe when I get through with the current Quilt-A-Thon (to be covered inthe next post!).
At least they have a good chance....I have them all in a box labeled "A Current Project", to alert me to something I need to work on but have put aside.
Just another way to trick myself into getting things done!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quilt Backing: A Necessary Evil

What is it about quilt backs that gets me every time?
I can make the top, I can baste, and I can quilt & bind, but when it comes to that backing my brain goes dead.
Numerous times I have gone to baste a quilt, only to be caught by not having the back ready.
It's not hard to make the back, it just doesn't seem to stick in my head as a step I actually have to complete before moving on!

My hat is off to all the Back Artists out there who are making what amounts to a double sided quilt...getting one side done is enough for me!
Though I do appreciate the person who e-mailed me to mention that using a UFO as a back solves 2 problems at once. That is truly brilliant thinking!

I got down to work this morning and made the backs for some quilts I must get done. One is a fund-raiser for the church, and the other two are on my UFO list...the one that is published monthly in the guild's newsletter, so I really have to keep up!
(note to self: do not be chairperson of something that requires monthly accountability!)

This is the back for the fund-raiser quilt...all that fabric to sew...and then iron!!!

When I have enough fabric to do the back all in the same (2 x length of quilt, if it is not wider than 80"), then I just fold it in half across the width and sew along one selvedge edge with a very hefty seam allowance. Then I trim off the selvedges in the seam (the other selvedge will be taken off when the quilt is trimmed after quilting).
After that, I just slice the along the fold to open it up, press the seam open and it's ready to baste.
But in the photo, you see I had to add another strip all along the top edge to make it long enough. So I'll make a sleeve out of the same contrasting fabric and it will end up being (yet another) "I meant to do it that way" touch!

The back for one of my UFOs...due to make a cross-country trip upon completion

This is stuck up on my design wall, and not smoothed very well. If you noticed the drapes & wrinkles as potential problems, good for you! However, I am pleased to say the grainlines are actually OK in this back.
It is important for the back to be smooth and flat before basting & quilting, and...though I hate to say it...often worth the time to fix if it is not! Imagine quilting all sorts of pleats and puckers into the back. You can't see them until all the work is done!
I liked the flowers, so I left them whole in the center and added the needed fabric to the sides.
I could have split the flowers and run the blue down the center. It only matters in how you want to show the fabrics.

Of course, if you have properly planned thing ahead of time, you will have enough of one fabric to do the entire back.
But where's the sport in

Mystery Quilt Revealed!

The Crossroads Quilters in Perry, Georgia, were thrilled with their Mystery Quilt, and I hope you like it, too!
Most of the quilts are being made for their charity, teenagers at the Georgia Industrial Children's Home in Macon, so I designed a special long-twin size for those. The quilt you see here is the regular twin size.

This was done in EQ6...what a great program!

It will be available soon as a pattern with three sizes included (I know you want to make a bed quilt! The pattern gets even better with more blocks).

So now it is official....I have driven over 4 hours and across state lines to talk about scraps!
Call me crazy (you will not be the first OR the last!) but I do love to be together with a group of quilters, sharing our love of fabric, colors, and probably chocolate. The Crossroads Quilters are a fun group, and had an awesome Show & Tell!
Here's a look at the Famous Over-Flowing Scrap Basket in action:

It has some friends on board....Perky Old Men ( 3" nine-patches & blacks & whites), charm quilt, and a blue & yellow scrap quilt.
Yes, scrap quilts can be made in a planned color scheme, you just need lots of different fabrics of the same color. This is especially good for people who want to be scrappy but still need to keep things under control.
You true Scrap-a-holics out there know the truth, though.
The more different fabric/ prints/colors you use, the better they all go together!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Quiltmobile Headed for Georgia!

The infamous scrap basket is loaded in the van and I'm headed for Georgia!

I'll be giving a lecture and two classes for the Crossroads Quilters in Perry, and am I excited!
Soon I will be able to share with you the great mystery quilt I designed for them. It's been really hard not to show it off!
Cherry-cherry made a version, too, and I'm taking it along. When you go to teach you just can't take too many quilts! It's a good thing I can drive the van for this one.

I'll be spending Mothers Day on the road driving to Ohio to see my Dad in Cincinnati...I sense a visit to St. Theresa while coming up!

I'll post from the road if I can...otherwise, I'll be back with loads of pictures in about 10 days!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Destroying the 9-Patch

The best time to be fooling around with a new project is often when you should be doing something else!
I should be getting ready for my teaching trip....and I am!...but I found a set of 30--6" squares in my scrap basket. And lately I've been reading about the Exploding 9-Patch or the Disappearing 9-Patch (and I am sure many other names, too!). So I just had to play.

Chop, chop...these are one quarter of some of the original blocks

My camera was having a temper tantrum and lost the original pictures of the 9-Patch blocks. But I have every confidence in you, Dear Reader, being able to imagine a 9-Patch block, cut down the middle top to bottom, and then side to side.
That makes the center square come out as a little square along with half of each middle side square. They now look like a sashing with cornerstones, and the original corner squares get to be the big stars of the show.
For those of you fooling around with the math (I know you are out there, and you know who you are!), it's possible to make 3 blocks from 27 3 squares went back in the scrap basket. But since each 9-Patch would be cut into 4 pieces to equal 12 new units, I knew the 3 blocks would end up as a square/rectangle when done.
That's pretty advanced math for me!

The chopped up blocks begin their Dance of Frustration.

You know what I mean here...they all look great! But wait! There are two that I don't like together, so I have to move them...but wait! Now there are too many reds together, so another trade....every time you move one, it makes the whole thing worse.

Is this arrangement better? Who knows?

You can fret over this stuff for days and it will never come out right. I am sure about that, because after you decide you like the arrangement, when you start sewing the blocks together you'll get them out of order anyway. I certainly do.
Just sew them and get over it!
All anybody ever sees is the final product, not your painful deliberations.

Today's mantra: At least this part is done

There's something about having it sewn that makes it look better, although there is also something about taking a picture that makes you want to do it over again!
I am avoiding any temptation to reverse-sew and move these blocks!
It came out about 24" x 32", so I can put on a nice 2" inner border and a 4" outer border to make a great child-size quilt for my guild's charity!

Another win-win-win: scraps used up...need for sewing project started!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fabric at the Art Show

It's a lovely day to go to an outdoor show and see some great quilt art by my friend Julie Mainor.

I know I told my friends I wouldn't call them by name in my blog, but this is different. I think you might want to know who is doing this work!

Today was the first time I saw the big tree in the center. It has a little "work in progress" note pinned to it!

Sometimes it is hard to know when a piece is done, but that doesn't mean it can't be shown!

I'm sorry I didn't get a better shot of the "looking up into the forest trees" quilt on the left (maybe because I already have one of it hanging in a quilt show!). It captures the misty sunbeams effect really well.

Of course I like the ferns on the right...they have everything I love: color & kookiness!
Julie loves nature and it really comes through in her pieces about the rivers, wildlife and growing things in Florida. She's a very good painter, too, and combines her fabric, paints and stitching to make these beautiful pictures.

When I was leaving, there were a couple of quilters in the booth checking out the back of the one piece. They reminded me of my first trip to Quilt National, and overhearing the staff explain the difference between artists and quilters...the quilters had their faces up in the work figuring out out it was done!

But there isn't really a difference. We all love working with colors and patterns, and it all comes from our desire to show and share what we are thinking and feeling.

Later note: The "psychedelic ferns" were purchased...somebody got a very nice addition to their art collection!