Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hand stitching: it's not as Ghastly as some may think

Hand stitched and hand embroidered "Patriotic Girl."
From ArtPlay Stitchery from Adornit.
It's taken me just about a year to get this piece to this stage.
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The running kantha stitch is by hand.

The embroidery is by hand (except her hair).

I work on it in small increments of time—between 10 minutes to an hour (if watching a TV program).

It's a portable project and it has no due date.

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Yesterday, my quilt guild had its annual brainstorming session to generate ideas for next year's programs. Among the quilting techniques that people were interested in exploring next year were: big stitch, hand embroidery, and sashiko. Traditionally, these are HAND stitching techniques. Although some may feel that "HAND" is a 4-letter word, quilting or stitching by hand can be relaxing, rhythmic and enjoyable... and, yes, it will take a bit more time.

Hand stitching, embroidery and embellishing with heavier weight, decorative threads have made a resurgence in the quilting world the past few years. Its popularity continues to grow. This is thanks to the stitchery artists, pattern designers, authors and instructors [Pepper Cory and Sue Spargo, to name just two] that expose, dazzle and teach us about the artistic potential of these techniques, and the thread and needle manufacturers that bring high-quality products to the marketplace to help us achieve our creative visions.

Here are detail photos of the kantha stitching on my patriotic girl.
Kantha stitching detail.
The top layer is a yarn-dyed fabric from Diamond Textiles, [Primitive collection, PRF-569]. The back layer is a piece of white muslin.
Using up bits of leftover embroidery floss.
There is no pattern marked in the background for the kantha stitching. The needle creates its own path. A new thread is fed into the needle when the previous piece is used up.
Kantha running stitch. No plan, just stitching.

A view of the back. The embroidery [the girl and flag] is embroidered just on the top layer. The kantha stitching is through both layers. 
Back view.
I'm not sure if this will turn into a pillow or a wall hanging. Suggestios? I do like the texture of the background stitching in contrast with the non-quilted, embroidered girl.
From "Calendar Girls" collection of ArtPlay Stitcheries from Adornit.
Another hand stitching WIP [work in progress] I have going is one of the characters from Alexander Henry's ever popular fabric line called, "The Ghastlies." I picked up "A Ghastlie Project" panel at Bless My Stitches in Murphy, NC.
"A Ghastlie Project"
She might show up on a future artwear jacket.
When choosing a fabric for hand stitching—big stitch quilting, kantha or boro stitching, hand embroidery—I recommend a yarn-dyed woven fabric [see Diamond Textiles] as the needle will glide through with ease.

I hope you consider giving hand stitching a try. It's not as "ghastly" as some may think! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Primitive Stars jacket, part two—hand stitching

Detail: running stitch on jacket back.
Did you read Part One about my Primitive Stars ikat Jacket? It was about the machine stitching/quilting part of the jacket-creation process. This post is about the hand stitching—or slooooow stitching—process.

The running stitch
On the front, back and sleeve, this jacket is embellished with a mix of fabric scraps—ikat, yarn-dyed wovens and commercial cotton prints. I was following a color palette and was not concerned with the fabric type. These patches are raw edge and attached with a running stitch by hand. I guess you could identify this technique with any or all of the following terms: boro, kantha, appliqué, or quilting... depending on your point of view. 

For this hand stitching, I used Spaghetti and Fruitti [WonderFil Threads] 12 wt. cotton threads. They come in a broad range of beautiful solid and variegated colors. Thread colors were chosen to complement the color of the fabric patches and the color scheme of the jacket.

Stitching on yarn-dyed fabrics
Hand stitching is a dream with the yarn-dyed wovens! You've gotta try it. Really.
Detail: running stitches with 12 wt. cotton thread from WonderFil Threads,
 ikat, and Primitive Stars yarn-dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles.
The thread color for stitching on the cream-colored ikat is Fruitti FT17, a variegated color story of soft lavender, pale periwinkle and a subtle hint of magenta, called "Mountains." 
Jacket pocket with hand stitched decorative band.
The jacket pocket fabric is from a Riverwoods fabric collection by Janine Burke. Looks like a hand-dyed, doesn't it? It's actually a printed fabric, so it's a "hand-dyed look at an affordable price." Quilters and quilt shops—please ask me about availability of this fabric line.

This shows the hand stitches from the lining (inside). It might look like a lot of stitches, but the process is quiet, rhythmic and relaxing—and a nice break from machine quilting.
Hand stitching on jacket (lining side).
This jacket has two buttons and button loop closures. You can see the streaks of raspberry color in the variegated thread in this photo [YLI 40 wt. cotton, color 15V Vineyard].
Button loop closure.
The sleeve detail—machine and hand stitching. I like the juxtaposition!
Sleeve with ikat fabric patch.
My completed jacket. It's a little boro and a little blue.
Primitive Stars jacket with ikat and slow stitching.

Make a jacket, make a friend
And here I am at the International Quilt Market [wearing my jacket] with Maria Shell, quilt artist and newly-published author with her first book, Improv Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts made with Line and Shape. We met in the Houston airport waiting for the Super Shuttle. We both knew immediately where the other was going (wink, wink). You can usually tell someone's a quilter by the clothes they're wearing. (My ikat jacket was a dead give-away.) We struck up a conversation in the shuttle van and in no time found ourselves at the hotel.
Me with Maria Shell and my autographed copy of
her new book, "Improv Patchwork."
Make yourself an artwear jacket. Patchwork... appliqué... kantha stitching... boro with beautiful threads... whatever techniques and materials satisfy your current afflatus (creative impulse). It will start a conversation and you might make a new friend.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Primitive Stars, ikat and slow stitiching a new jacket

Primitive Stars, ikat jacket (back view).
A jacket—particularly one with a minimal number of seams and pattern pieces—presents a vacant canvas for creative stitching, surface design, and experimenting with patchwork. For fiber artists and garment makers, what better reason is there for pulling out favorite fabrics, threads and treasured scraps and making one?

For my two previous jackets (see this blog post and the photo collage in this post), I used yarn-dyed wovens. These textiles are from Diamond Textiles [don't be fooled by the thinner, copycats] and I am still captivated by the rich, textured designs and the way the threads and stitches present themselves on these fabrics.

My recent jacket finish—just in time for Fall Quilt Market, I might add—combines one of Diamond Textiles' ikats, the blue-grey colorway from the Primitive Stars collection, and a few scraps of yarn-dyed and commercial print fabrics.

Three layers
As with most of my quilted wearables, there are three layers:
  • an outside fashion fabric (pieced or wholecloth),
  • a middle layer (typically flannel or muslin), 
  • a lining fabric, 
... that are stitched—or "quilted"—to hold the layers together. I learned this garment construction method from the Queen of Folk Art jackets, Rachel Clark. This jacket has both machine and hand quilting. Here is an in-progress photo of the front right. The "white" fabric you see extending out from the edge of the fashion fabric is the middle layer of the "quilt sandwich."
Jacket front (in progress). The individual jacket pieces are
stitched and quilted and then the jacket is assembled. 
Machine quilting
The photo below is the jacket's outside showing the combination of a straight and decorative machine stitches. This process was manual and random. Sometimes I'd watch the color change in the variegated thread [40wt. from YLI] and switch to the decorative stitch to highlight the new color.
Machine quilting with straight and decorative stitches.
I do not mark the lines for quilting (who's got the time?? not I!). An advantage of using a yarn-dyed fabric is that the pattern or "print" is woven into the fabric and it's on grain. You can use the fabric's "print" as a guide for machine quilting with the walking foot.
Machine quilting (lining side).
When the season turns from summer to fall, think about sewing a jacket to wear in the cooler weather. The Houston convention center for Quilt Market was cool and a few evenings were windy and chilly once the sun went down. I was glad I had a jacket—especially one with a pocket!
Jacket front
I'll do a follow-up blog post with close-ups of the hand stitching and other jacket details. Stay tuned. For now, here is the materials list for this jacket.

:: Yarn-dyed Primitive Stars blue-greyfabric [Diamond Textiles]
:: Multi-colored ikat [Diamond Textiles]
:: Fabrics from Great Wall collection [Midwest Textiles]
:: hand stitching with 12 wt. cotton Spaghetti and Fruitti thread [WonderFil Threads]
:: 40 wt. cotton variegated thread for machine stitching [YLI Threads]
:: cotton fabric for center layer
:: jacket pattern: "Raggy Jacket" by Four Corners Designs

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Creativity blossoms in Art Weave class at Sew 'n So quilt shop

When you ask students to introduce themselves in class and they share things like, "I like to make all styles of quilts...," "... I like to take classes to learn different techniques," and "... I like to step outside the box," you know you have a classroom full of adventurous quiltmakers and it's going to be a fabulously creative class! My Art Weave class yesterday was exactly this!
"Art Weave" class at Sew 'n So Quilt Shop, Rocky Face, Georgia.

Preparing the strips for weaving
and an assortment of fabric panels with other designs.
Yesterday, I taught the Art Weave technique at Sew 'n So Quilt Shop to an eager group of quiltmakers. It was a joy to be back in the classroom again. All the students created beautiful pieces of fabric art with large scale floral designs from Frond Design Studios.

It was a special, serendipitous treat for me when I realized that each student had chosen a different flower design for their art weave piece. This also offered class attendees a bouquet of possibilities for what they could do for the next project. The classroom was abloom with colorful fabric art possibilities!

One of the missions that artist-owner, Stephanie Brandenburg, has for her fabric company, Frond Design Studios, is "Art into the every day." Frond's large scale fabric prints and the art weave technique is an ideal approach for introducing this concept to people of all skill levels.


Courtney works with the Love Blossoms Lily.
Stephanie also thinks of the company's fabric collections as the initial leg of a creative relay race. From the original paintings on canvas and the printing of the fabrics, to the merchandising, displays and class projects offered at quilt shops and independent sewing centers, to the creative hands of quilters and sewers, the baton is passed from maker to maker at each leg of a creative journey.
Sherry (left) works with the Una's Garden blue iris and
Jo-Anne (right) chose the Love Blossoms red poppy.
On their leg of the journey, class attendees put their individual stamp on their piece said they enjoyed the art weave technique. Here is a glimpse of their work.
Art Weave Lily by Courtney.
We discussed a variety of options for quilting and finishing and everyone chimed in with ideas for other projects using these large scale prints and fabric panels. Thank you to all my students for coming to class with a sense of adventure and to Anna at Sew 'n So for hosting the class.
Art Weave Poppy by Jo-Anne.
This is the violets panel from Una's Garden in one of my class samples.
My class sample, Violet Bouquet, using the Art Weave technique.

Inspired? Follow my blog and watch my class calendar to see where I will be teaching this class in the future. Quilt shops and quilt guilds can contact me if interested in scheduling a class.

Looking for these fabrics? As of this blog post, Sew 'n So Quilt Shop has the full collection of the Flower Power fabric panels from Frond Design Studios. Several additional panels went home with the class attendees, so don't delay if you want some for your own quilting or sewing projects.
      If you are a shop owner and would like to stock these fabrics in your store, email me at fabricrepveronica (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My guest quilt artist exhibit at Murray Arts Council

I am honored to be the featured artist at a lovely exhibit of quilts and vintage sewing machines at the Murray Arts Council [MAC] in Chatsworth, Georgia. My husband, Larry, and I attended the opening reception this Saturday and were warmly greeted by the staff, volunteers and visitors to the exhibit.
My quilts at the guest artist exhibit at the Murray Arts Council quilt exhibit.
October 14-15 and 21-22, 2017
Nine of my quilts are on display this weekend, October 14-15, and next weekend, October 21-22 along with quilts from local quiltmakers and a wonderful selection of vintage and toy sewing machines from the collection of Debbie Vick Davenport.
"Sidewalk Surprise" (left) and "A Feather Runs Through It" on display
with a vintage featherweight sewing machine.
"Your art quilts set the tone for the exhibit," said Debbie Vick Davenport, my exhibit liaison and one of the exhibit's coordinators. Lori McDaniels, one of the MAC directors, indicated there was an overwhelmingly positive response to my pieces and the Guest Artist exhibit, and just the first day's visitor attendance had far exceeded past shows.
Visitors at the annual quilt exhibit at Murray Arts Council, Chatsworth, GA.
The exhibit has a sampling of quilts from several quilting genres—art quilts, traditional, memory, vintage/antique and patriotic—that are complemented by an exhibit of antique featherweights and vintage toy sewing machines. Here is a preview...
Art quilt (left) by Miriam Duncan and "Flowers for Peyton" by Brenda Bowling.
Debbie was on hand and talked about the history and stories of the acquisition of her vintage sewing machines. She gives each machine a name—usually in honor of a family member that was a seamstress or quilter. It was amazing to see the toy machines and realize how small they really are. (Having one as a little girl, they seemed so much bigger!)
Debbie Vick Davenport with a vintage toy sewing machine.
Right: a model 221K White Singer from 1964. Notice the hard carrying case.
The background for this Cathedral Windows quilt is linen. The colorful patches are fabric swatches from a mail order fabric club. Pre-internet days, fabric stores would mail groups of fabric swatches to home sewers so they could select fabrics for mail order purchase. 
Cathedral Window quilt with linen and cotton fabrics.
The exhibit included appliqué quilts featuring the traditional—and always recognizable—sun bonnet characters. These motifs go by names such as Sunbonnet Sue, Dutch Doll, Parasol Girl and Sunbonnet Sam. I wonder if the alternate blocks of the novelty fish fabric were paired with a collection of vintage Fisherman Sam quilt blocks to make this quilt (below left).
Left: Fisherman Sam with novelty fabric.
Right: "Little Dutch Girls" by Mabel Beavers.
One of my favorite quilts in the exhibit was this scrappy "Pinwheels and Stars" quilt by Clemmie Jones. The checks and stripes gave it an energy that spoke to me. And the mix of prints florals and other prints tells me this quiltmaker was not timid with her choice of fabrics. I think this block pattern would be fun to use in a modern quilt. Modern quilters—what do you think? Can you envision a modern version?
"Pinwheels and Stars" by Clemmie Jones
The quilt exhibit continues today (Sunday) and next weekend. If you want to make a full day of it, the Black Bear Festival is also happening October 21-22. Quilts, crafts, music, food and beautiful scenery of the foothills of the Appalachians... enjoy the day!

A note about directions to MAC:
When you get to Chatsworth (if you've not been), look for the Murray County Courthouse building on N 3rd Avenue with the flags out front.
The Murray County courthouse is right across from the MAC entrance.
The Murray Arts Council location is in the middle of the block right across the street from the courthouse. Look for the red MAC logo on the window. They had a "Quilt Show Today" sign outside on the sidewalk.
Murray County Arts Council with the quilt exhibit.
At some point in the conversation between my husband and the quilt exhibit hosts, it came out that yesterday was our wedding anniversary. So, in addition to being the guest artist at the Murray Arts Council quilt exhibit, I received many compliments on my quilts and well wishes for our anniversary. Last night, we celebrated with a special anniversary dinner at Alleia downtown Chattanooga. It was a very good day.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I'm a Guest Artist at Murray Arts Council quilt exhibit, October 14-15, 21-22

Exciting news! I've been invited to be the Guest Artist at a quilt exhibit to launch the opening of the new facility of the Murray Arts Council [MAC] in Chatsworth, Georgia.
Blue Rhino Moon (detail) will be on display in the special exhibit
at the Murray Arts Council Chatsworth, GA. October 14-15 and 21-22.
I'll have nine quilted pieces in the exhibit that will be held on two weekends in October: 14 - 15 and 21 - 22, with an opening reception on Saturday, October 14 from 1 - 3 pm. The address to the gallery is 120 N. 3rd Avenue, Chatsworth, GA (about an hour from Chattanooga).

Blue Rhino Moon, 2004, 33.5" x 43"
This quilt, Blue Rhino Moon (read this quilt's back story in this blog post), is one of the nine quilted pieces that will be on display. It's an honor to be asked to be the guest artist and exciting to have a subset of my work hanging all together!

When I was first asked to be the guest artist, I made a mental list of pieces I thought people might like to see. "This one has great color..." "that one shows cool quilting techniques..." "that other one incorporates interesting fabrics..." was my initial thought process.

As the time approached to make the final selection, I laid out a big bunch of my quilts side by side...

Hmmm... these really need to be curated.

So, what I thought might be "fun to see" was a wee bit different from choosing pieces that would tell my story and make a cohesive showing. After a few auditions and edits, I feel the ultimate group of quilts is a good representation of the work I'm doing these days... (and still offers great color combos, improv patchwork, and cool free-motion quilting).

So, You're Invited to the Quilt Show! And I hope you can come to this special exhibit. I'm planning to attend the opening reception to help celebrate MAC's new facility and would love to chat about quilts and quilting with you. In addition to my pieces, there will be other quilts at the exhibit made by local quiltmakers.

October is a beautiful time of year to be looking at quilts, showing quilts, making quilts, thinking about making quilts....

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Strike Zone: a raw edge applique flannel quilt

Welcome to October... and the last day of the regular baseball season. This is another quilt from the archives, called Strike Zone.
"Strike Zone"
Strike Zone is a raw-edge appliqué flannel quilt I made for my husband in 2010. After 7 years of use and a number of washings (and dried in the dryer), it has held up well.
Strike Zone, 64" x 56", completed March 2010
The weather on this beautiful first day of October is prime for either outdoor or with-the-windows-open indoor activities. At 3:15 pm (Eastern Time) today, however, all the last MLB [Major League Baseball] games of the season will begin... and
  • baseball fans will be glued to TV screens or the field,
  • baseball widows/widowers will be enjoying other activities,
  • baseball fantasy league participants will be checking play-by-play and end-of-game points to reveal their final ranking.
Have fun and good luck to all!

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.
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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.

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