Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Chef's Dilemma quilt and a birthday wish

The Chef's Dilemma, 2003.
Best of Show 2004, A Mountain Quiltfest.
In honor of Larry's (my husband) birthday today, September 24, I've pulled a photo of an all-time favorite quilt, The Chef's Dilemma, from the archives. This quilt was made in the fall of 2003, when I was a brand new quilter and a member of my first-ever quilt guild. It was created in response to a Guild Challenge—another concept at the time that was new to me—where it won a first place. What an honor and a surprise for me as the members of this guild were all long-time and very accomplished quilters.

This quilt is a combination of patchwork and raw-edge appliqué [raw-edge means the edges are not turned under as in traditional appliqué]. The quilt is free-motion quilted and straight-line quilted with the walking foot. With the popularity of raw-edge appliqué collage quilts these days (see the wonderful collage quilt patterns by Laura Heine), this is a fun and freeing technique for anyone to try, or to revisit if you've not done it is a while!

"Fabric Larry" (the working title) then went on to receive the Best of Show at A Mountain Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge, TN in 2004. It was the first time a non-bed-size quilt won the top honor, and it was the most complete surprise and honor for me. I am forever thankful that the SBs (my quilting sisters) were there to support [literally—as I got weak in the knees when I found out it won] and celebrate this amazing accomplishment with me.

The Chef's Dilemma was accepted into other quilt shows and exhibits—the McMinn County Heritage Museum quilt show, The Smoky Mountains quilt show, and the Quilts for a Change Zonta exhibit—where it received awards.

These days, The Chef's Dilemma occasionally comes with me when I teach "Intro to Free-motion Quilting on a domestic machine" or if there is a special Show and Tell at a guild meeting or presentation. And "Fab Lar" is part of the quilt rotation at our house.

So, Happy Birthday, Larry! 
You'll always be my favorite chef.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Colors of the Sun, an Equinox quilt

Colors of the Sun 
38" x 41"  September 2001
Today, September 22, the sun shines directly on earth's equator and the length of the day and the night are nearly equal. It is the Autumnal Equinox.

This quilt is Colors of the Sun—a quilt I made in 2001. This was one of my first attempts at drafting a paper piecing pattern [needed for the suns] and the quilt was in response to my first Guild Challenge. It's also one of my husband's favorite quilts.

The Guild Challenge was called "Pick 6" and the quiltmaker was required to choose 5 or 6 of the following elements to incorporate into a quilt:

  • yellow
  • forest green
  • purple
  • sun
  • 9-patch
  • log cabin

I used all six.

There are several scrappy 9-patch blocks incorporated into the quilt. These are the most obscure of the required elements in my quilt. The 9-patches are 3" finished so the individual units are 1" each.
The 9-patch, sun, log cabin, yellow, green and purple elements can be seen here.
The quilt has free-motion and walking foot quilted. This was way before ruler work tools were available for domestic sewing machine quilting (and my free-motion skills were not quite developed).
Walking foot quilting around the suns and in the border.
The tops of the "log cabin" flowers were embellished with beads.
Beading on the flower centers.
From today until the winter solstice on December 21 (in the northern hemisphere), our days will shorten as the nights grow longer. As the cooler temperatures approach, it's a great time to rummage through your fabrics, decide on a new or pending quilting project and put needle and thread to stitch.

I love being involved with the art of quiltmaking in the fall and winter months!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Art Weave class—how to use large scale fabric prints

Are you inspired by those beautiful quilting cottons with large scale motifs? You spread open the fabric to see the painterly design and the hand of the artist... then you think to yourself, "but what can I do with it?"
Art Weave class—Fabric art with large scale prints.
Join me for my Art Weave class and I'll show you a fun (and so easy) technique for using those unique, large scale fabric designs.
Art Weave, Saturday, October 21
Sew 'n So Quilt ShopRocky Face, GA
Call Anna at (706) 217-8111 to register.

I'd been working on the Violet Bouquet piece (shown above) when my favorite Machingers machine quilting gloves "sprang a leak." ugh!

I went to my LQS [local quilt shop] and bought myself TWO new pair.

Well, you wouldn't believe the energy and renewed excitement I got when I slipped on that new pair of quilting gloves! Kinda like when you get new underwear—ya feel like a "new woman."

(yeah, yeah, you laugh... because you know what I mean...)

So, armed with my new free-motion stitching super power, I began free-motion thread sketching the violets.
Free-motion quilting on large scale artisan prints from Frond Design Studios.
The background was more heavily free-motion quilted with various 50 wt. threads to let the flowers advance.
Dimension in the flowers is achieved with heavily quilted background.
WonderFil Thread Eleganza, 8 wt. perle cotton thread was used for the flower centers.
Eleganza size 8 perle cotton for the flower centers.
Here is a view of the back. A yarn-dyed woven from Diamond Textiles is used for the backing and the facing that finished the edges. There's something about a yarn-dyed woven fabric that makes stitching—machine or hand—a dream!
"Violet Bouquet." Back view.
Between the DecoBob 80 wt. poly thread (by WonderFil Threads) and the yarn-dyed woven (from Diamond Textiles) which allows the stitches to sink into the fabric, the stitches to secure the facing are nearly invisible.
DecoBob 80 wt. thread for an invisible binding.
My first Art Weave sample—which you can see in person at Sew 'n So Quilt Shop—uses this red flower design from Frond Design Studios.
My Art Weave class works with large scale artisan fabric designs.
The October 21 Art Weave class is already partially filled. Don't wait to register! All you need are a few simple supplies (you'll get the supply list with the class payment). A fabric kit is provided with the class. Call Sew 'n So Quilt Shop at (706) 217-8111 if you want to join me for an artistic experience with large scale artisan fabrics.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pillowcase competition—North v South—benefits charities

Pillowcases turned in at Lana's Quilts, Cleveland, TN.
Quilters, quilt guild members and customers are sewing in full force to get behind their local quilt shops in the Chattanooga area, Knoxville area, and Johnson City, Tennessee for The Great Pillowcase Challenge.

This is a friendly competition between "The North" (Bernina in Stitches,  Stitches 'N' Stuff and Atomic Fibers) and "The South" (Chattanooga Quilts and Lana's Quilts and Sew Much More) to see which "quilt shop team" can collect the most pillowcases that will be donated to local charities and hospitals for distribution to children.

I was at Lana's Quilts and Sew Much More this week to drop off one. During my visit, about every hour, someone walked into the shop to drop off stacks—yes, big bags and piles—of pillowcases... 46... 20... 37... It was astounding! Below the cutting table several plastic storage bins were full with colorful, fabric pillowcases, sewn with love by generous, big-hearted sewers and quilters. At today's guild meeting, one of the guild members showed 6 or 7 more that will be added to the collection.

The competition goes through September 16 and each shop owner has graciously offered some kind of incentive—special pricing, discounts, etc.—to customers, quilters and sewers that participate in the Challenge.

The 3 Seam Method for Sewing Pillowcases 
My favorite method for making pillowcases these days is the magical burrito pillowcase method. There are only three seams: 1) attaching the band/cuff to the pillowcase body, 2) the French seam on the bottom and side, and 3) part 2 of the French seam that encloses all the raw edges. Clean, neat and fast!
Using the Burrito construction method and French seams leaves no raw edges.
While at Lana's shop, I had a few minutes to help fold and insert cases into clear plastic sandwich bags for distribution. The novelty fabric prints made me smile and I'm sure the recipients will love them!

I believe both Lana's Quilts and Chattanooga Quilts are having sew-ins before the competition ends on September 16. Contact these or any of the participating shops and see what they are doing. For a pillowcase, it only takes 3/4 yard for the body, 1/3 yard for the cuff, and 1/8 yard (optional) for an accent trim.

The latest update on the score? The South Team is winning with over 700 pillowcases. But with a week to go... it's still anybody's game. Be a winner and join the competition! Any contribution is appreciated.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Kantha embroidery | slow stitching

Kantha Embroidery. 
Running stitches. Colored threads. And two pieces of cloth.
Kantha embroidery.
This is one of the stitching exercies from Dorothy Caldwell's workshop.
Kantha embroidery on bleach discharged cotton.
The fabrics were discharged with bleach. The mark-making tool was a chunk of a pool noodle.
Kantha embroidery. Back side.
A buttonhole stitch finishes the edges.
Kantha embroidery piece, 15" x 4.5".
To me, the discharged images look like moons... or planets... out in space. Maybe this can be my piece to commemorate the 2017 solar eclipse.

My current kantha piece is this Adornit ArtPlay Stitchery from the Calendar Girls collection. The traditional and kantha embroidery is done on a yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles (PRF-569). My plan is to fill the background with the Kantha stitching.
Kantha stitching surrounds a basic embroidery.
I so love the magic of slow stitching.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

100+ quilts displayed at first-time quilt show in Ringgold, Georgia

2017 Ringgold Quilt Expo at The Depot, Ringgold, GA.
Two guild friends and I were able to attend a local quilt show last weekend in Ringgold, Georgia, a town just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The end-of-August weather was pleasantly cooperative and the event was well attended by quilters and visitors who were treated to over 100 lovely quilts made by area quiltmakers.

The show offered a menu of concurrent events— vendors, Quilts of Valor presentations, a bed turning, demos and my friend, Holly Anderson, a certified quilt appraiser, was available on Thursday for quilt appraisals and consultations.

With the quilt show's theme of Civil War and Underground Railroad (the exhibit was held at the Historic Ringgold Depot), many of the quilts were traditional in design, pattern and fabric choice. But the show was open to other categories and styles and a few modern style quilts, quilts made from fabric panels and vintage quilts were sprinkled throughout the exhibit. An exquisite Baltimore album quilt made by a local quilter and long-arm machine quilted by my friend and fellow CMQG member, Carolyn Rippee, was awarded Best of Show.
Baltimore album quilt awarded Best of Show.
Many of our area quilt shops had tables at the vendor mall. These wonderful local quilt shop owners are fabulous supporters of the quilting community!
Lana Masengill (left) of Lana's Quilts and Sew Much More, Cleveland, TN.
Anna Quarles (right) of Sew 'n So Quilt Shop, Rocky Face, GA
with  helpers Peggy (left) and Katie.
Jacki Cory teaches classes at Old Woolen Mill studio in Cleveland, TN.
Susan Hyder (left) of Hyderhangour Quilt Fabric and More, Cleveland, TN
and BJ Wright, the quilt show's Volunteer Coordinator.
Here are a few of the quilts of which I was able to get a picture. (If anyone knows their makers, please leave a comment and I'll fill in the captions.) The fabric colors and values in this scrappy one were wonderful.
Scrappy Star string quilt.
This one spoke to me. I love the juxtaposition of the classic hatchet block patchwork with a fusible applique border. Contemporary Broderie perse!
Patchwork with an applique border.
House quilt and a holiday quilt.
This contemporary quilt incorporates a panel. 
Underground Railroad (left) and a row quilt.
Variation on a Bethlehem or Lone Star pattern.
This one reminded me of Mary Kerr and her vintage-with-a-twist method of patchwork.
Vintage quilt.
Another Baltimore Album quilt.
Applique map of the United States by Anna McDonald (age 12) or Ringgold, GA.
Redwork quilt.
There was also the opportunity for anyone to take a seat at the frame and hand quilt this quilt-in-progress. These vintage blocks were found and pieced into a top specifically for this hands-on experience.
Hand quilting a vintage quilt top at a quilting frame.
Whomever participated in this hand quilting activity had their name submitted into a jar for a chance to win the quilt. What a wonderful prize that would be.

For a first-time quilting event, the hard work of the volunteers, participants and sponsors paid off and it was a lovely showing of work by area quiltmakers. Any suggestions or ideas for making this show bigger/better/bolder for next year, let me know and I'll pass along the feedback.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Discovering the lightning bolt stitch—
and remembering to use it when sewing knits

The lightning stitch, or lightning bolt stitch.
I knew of this stitch. I've heard it referenced many times in tutorials and TV programs about sewing with knit fabrics. I just never remembered to use it when I had a knit project under the needle... until recently.
The Lightning Bolt stitch is great for sewing knits.
I had a knit top already cut out just waiting for some sewing time. It's made from one of Art Gallery Fabrics' solid color knits (one of the fabric companies I rep). The color is of orange creamsicle. I've sewn several long and short sleeve tops with AGF knits and my collection continues to grow.
Knit top in orange creamsicle by Art Gallery Fabrics.
These knit tops are soft, comfortable, wash up well and are easy to pack for traveling. This cotton fabric has a wee bit (5%) of spandex in it which gives it stability and memory... and makes it easy to sew.
Decorative stitching on yarn-dyed woven fabrics.
Anyway... back to the lightning stitch and how I happened to discover it...

Lately, I've been immersed with stitching on yarn-dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles (another fabric company I rep). This project features decorative machine stitching on 4-patch blocks. It's an exercise in color and contrast—thread color vs. stitch vs. fabric color and pattern, and how each plays off the other. It also got me using the myriad of decorative stitches that are built into my sewing machine again. (We just don't use these stitch beauties enough!) While experimenting with stitch selections, I noticed stitch #17 on my machine.

Behold! The lightning bolt stitch!

[I guess that lightning bolt finally hit me.]

So my pre-cut knit top was an opportunity to try out stitch #17—the lighting bolt stitch. I used this stitch for the armhole, side and shoulder seams. Then, the seam allowances were edge finished on the serger for a neater inside. The bottom hem and the sleeve hems were serged and turned it under once. From the right side of the work, the hems were sewn down by machine using the lightning stitch. The bottom hem has a fusible tricot strip inside to keep it from rolling.
Using the lighting stitch on a knit top.
The lightning stitch takes a bit longer to sew because it goes forward and back as it stitches. But it is neat, strong and still allows the fabric to stretch without the stitches popping. I think I like it better than a small zigzag (or wobble stitch) that I had been using. It has a more polished, finished look.
Finished knit T-shirt ready to wear.
Another knit top for my wardrobe and another stitch experience added to my garment sewing skill set. Good ol' stitch #17 did a good job for me. 

Don't wait for the lightning bolt to hit you in the head—try this stitch on your next knit project.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Understanding Cuddle Quilt math

The Choo Choo Quilters had a very productive Cuddle Quilt workshop yesterday. 
Quilt tops, backing fabrics and batting ready for the group spray basting session.
This annual workshop is a wonderful opportunity to spend the day with a group of generous and talented women from my guild while we make small lap size quilts for our community service recipient organization, the Chambliss Center for Children . As for the quiltmaking process, one of the most expeditious activities to take advantage of at this workshop is a spray basting session. Details about how we accomplish this are in this blog post.
Ginny (left) and Linda spray basting.

I geared up and was prepared for the spray basting session this year. 7 cuddle quilt tops were ready for basting. There were:
Basted quilts at the Choo Choo Cuddle Quilt workshop.

  • Three tops made with blocks from the Making Do program.
  • One top from blocks made at last year's Cuddle Quilt workshop.
  • One improv scrap quilt top.
  • One top featuring a panel.
  • And one sample top from a fabric line called Bugalicious.

During the 7-hour workshop, 45 quilt tops were spray basted by our dedicated quiltmakers. An amazing accomplishment! This was nearly double our first record of 27 quilts back in 2011.
My friend and fellow guild member, Ginny, enjoys the binding process. She had offered to bind cuddle quilts if I would quilt them. (She attached the binding to this cowboy cuddle quilt for me.) So, in addition to my quilt tops, I brought an extension table for my sewing machine with the plan to free-motion quilt as many basted tops as possible for her.
Cuddle quilts ready for binding.
By 3 pm, I had free-motion quilted 5 cuddle quilts which I turned over to Ginny for binding. At the end of the workshop, however, I still took home 5 spray basted quilt sandwiches from the 7 tops I brought in.

The Cuddle Quilt Math word problem:
"A quilter brings in 7 quilt tops for basting, then quilts 5 basted quilts while at a workshop. If said quilter gives 5 quilts to another quilter to bind, how is it that I still brought home 5 quilts to quilt?"

I guess this is "Cuddle Quilt Math."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kitty Quilt inspection and approval

Three new kitty quilts were dropped off at The Cat Clinic of Chattanooga yesterday. Of course, before they are put to use in the cubbies for the recovering kitties, Jesse the Wonder Cat, the Cat Clinic's king, chief inspector and ruler of the office had to inspect them. "Just doin' my job, ma'am," says Jesse. 
Jesse the Wonder Cat inspects the kitty quilts at The Cat Clinic.
 "Helloooo... anything in here?"
Checking inside and out.
"Let's see about this one over here."
Jesse inspects the three new kitty quilts.
"Gotta check under here, too."
Jesse doesn't miss a thing. He's very thorough.
"This one's got cute animal fabrics..."
Improvisational patchwork with novelty fabric prints.
"I like the flannel. It's soft and warm."
The kitty quilts are backed with flannel fabric.
"Ok. Job complete! What's next?"
Kitty quilts are kitty approved!
The associates reward a job well done with some kitty scratching and food!
Petting time for a job well done.
After inspection, the associates fold up the kitty quilts and take them to the back.
Food time.
"Oh, here comes Cassandra. She's gotta get into the action."
Cassandra joins in after the work is done.
There's always something going on at the Cat Clinic. Jesse, Cassandra and Willie the Super Scooter welcome cat and human visitors alike. The Clinic also has kittens and cats for adoption. Jesse would love for his feline friends to find forever homes!
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