Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quilters: Do you have a word for 2016?

I was reading Upstate Lisa's blog post about how she considered and found her "word for 2016." She chose "Happiness." A fine word, and a great choice. While I don't really make New Year's resolutions, choosing an inspirational word to start off a new year is kind of a cool idea.

If you're a quilter, however, it's not just a matter of choosing a word, but quilting it!
"Defining Contours," a free-motion quilting class using micro fills and more.
Are you up for this? Quilting your New Year's inspirational word?

"Defining Contours," my latest free-motion quilting class, fits the bill. I'll be teaching it in Huntsville, Alabama at Huntsville Sew and Vac on Saturday, January 23Contact the shop or you can register on-line (eeeeasy).

When I was developing this free-motion quilting class, I didn't consciously consider the "word for the new year" concept but I think it's very apropos for January, and the start of the 2016 year. Here's a peek into the class...
The "Defining Contours" class sample features
Meadowlark and Peppered Cottons fabrics from StudioE Fabrics.
My class sample (above) features one of my favorite blender fabrics—a quilting-weight shot cotton that is fabulous for showing off your free-motion quilting—Peppered Cottons by Pepper Cory [for StudioE Fabrics]. Have you ever done free-motion quilting on a Peppered Cotton? Luscious. See this blog post and this post and you'll see why I chose this fabric.
100 wt. InvisaFil thread by WonderFil.
The thread we'll be using for this free-motion work is InvisaFil [by WonderFil Threads] and it's perfect for the micro fills that will define the contours and elevate your word... right... off... the... quilt.
Class kits have fabrics from the Blue Bird collection
by Jennifer Brinley for StudioE Fabrics.
Meadowlark, one of Jennifer Brinley's earlier fabric collections for StudioE Fabrics is shown in my sample above, but students taking the class will receive fabrics in their class kit from Jennifer's new collection, Blue Birdalong with a coordinating Peppered Cotton.

The associates at Huntsville Sew and Vac have kits prepared for the class and the store has any other supply you might need... so don't worry about hunting for the fabrics and specific supplies. Attendees just need to bring the basics and their favorite FMQ (free-motion quilting) tools. A supply list is available upon class registration. (And you'll want to get it sooner rather than later because there is a little pre-work for the class.)
"Defining Contours," a NEW free-motion quilting class.
Are you ready to quilt up your 2016 word with me? Join me in Huntsville, AL on January 23 and we'll get your New Year started on the right foot—with a free-motion foot!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December: 70-degree weather?

It's the end of December. 
Wreaths are on the front doors and candles in the windows.
The front yards are dressed with greenery and red holiday ribbons.

In the back yards, the quince is blooming and the forsythia has buds.
It's December. Is the quince confused?
The highs have been in the 70s and the lows in the high 60s. 
It feels like Spring
70-degree temperatures in Chattanooga for end of December, 2015.
What will 2016 bring?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Is it "Modern"?

Background fills and ruler work.
I like making quilts.

I make quilts for several reasons… because I am inspired… because I enjoy the process… because I like the tactile feel of the fabrics and threads... the 3D texture that is created from the stitching… the creative release… the sense of calm that comes over me when performing the rhythmic tasks involved… and the sense of accomplishment I get upon finishing.

Throughout my quiltmaking journey, I have marched (and danced!) to my own tune. I have made quilts in many different styles: traditional, reproduction, art, improvisational, and possibly in the new category of "modern" (which I must say seems to be a moving target as to what qualifies).

I joined my local modern quilt guild (MQG) chapter in order to learn more about this new quilting genre. And, my quilting friends and I have had discussions on what is or is not considered "modern." What we've concluded? It keeps evolving.

So, this is my latest finish. Do you think it's "modern"?
Finished size: 28.5" x 28.75"
This quilt features:
  • a charm pack of black and white fabrics,
  • a shot cotton background [Peppered Cottons by Pepper Cory], color: paprika,
  • I used the Creative Grids hatchet template by Rita Fishel to make the blocks—'cause this tool is too darn fun! 
  • and I also started experimenting with ruler work on my domestic machine, so the tonal background of the shot cotton was a good canvas on which the quilting would show and I could gauge my progress and success level.
Hatchet template ruler by Rita Fishel for Creative Grids.
Here is a detail of the quilting. It's all free-motion work—including the straight lines. I used a machine quilting ruler (not to be confused with a rotary cutter ruler) for the straight lines (a.k.a. ruler work). 
Detail of free-motion machine quilting. 
Quilt stats: This project was started in January of this year (2015) and finished in December. My logbook indicates 14 hours of quilting as of mid-February. Unfortunately I failed to continue to log progress as I did it in bits and pieces as time permitted.
Top thread: Aurifil 50 wt. cotton.
Bobbin: Bottom Line (Superior Threads) 60 wt. poly.
It's a hatchet job.

You could say it's a hatchet job.
But do you think it's modern?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

ATCs: Spoonerisms

"I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
by Diane Pineschi
Ever have those moments when your brain thinks faster than your mouth can speak? Or your tongue gets tangled around your eye tooth and you can't see what you're saying?

Well, that's sort of how spoonerisms—errors in speech (unintentionally or purposely) where initial consonants, vowels or parts of two words are switched—were born. The term is named after William Archibald Spooner, who was prone to this linguistic mix-up. Often, a spoonerism results in a play on words of a comical nature so they can bring an unexpected chuckle or smile.

"Spoonerisms" was the theme for the FiberAntics December ATC swap and is indeed a light-hearted way to wrap up the year. Here are the ATC artists' rendition of these humorous twists of the tongue. Enjoy… and it's OK to laugh out loud.
"He's a smart fella" (or a fart smella)
by Marilyn League

"A Blushing Crow" (A crushing blow)
by Cathy Dillon

"The thlot pickens…" (The plot thickens...)
by Bonnie Stevens
Next up are two versions of the same spoonerism.
"Sew me to my sheet." (Show me to my seat.)
by Karen Downer

"Let me sew you to your sheet." (Let me show you to your seat.)
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

"Look Ma… it's a hen of tarts!!!" (a ten of hearts)
by Liz Armstrong

She called me all excited about her new "Mump Deals" (Dump Meals) cook book.
by Debbie Joyner

"Runny Babbit," a Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein
by Dawn Spagna

"Honey, you just went through a Lead Right (red light)"
by Sharon Griffith
So, as we wind down 2015, thanks to all the participating ATC artists for the giggles, grins and especially the art. Enjoy the holidays, and in the words of George Carlin, "Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The sound of free-motion quilting
with antique sewing machines

Cynthia is free-motion quilting on
a featherweight sewing machine.
Whether inherited from a family member, a serendipitous yard sale find, or a sought out purchase, there are a lot of quilters and sewists using featherweights and vintage sewing machines for their quilting and sewing projects. You know, the non-computerized, only-does-a-straight-stitch, single-hole-throat-plate kind of machine.

Believe it or not, all the students in my last Intro to Free-motion Quilting on a domestic machine class brought an antique model Singer sewing machine to work with in class. Can you do free-motion quilting on these antique machines? Absolutley! 

If you think about it, free-motion quilting only requires a straight stitch... the needle goes down into the quilt sandwich and comes right back up. So, unless you are considering free-motion thread sketching, decorative stitch quilting using a zigzag stitch or other decorative stitches (like Karen Linduska) that require the needle to move left/right, the straight stitch is the stitch you want. These antique machines do a straight stitch beautifully.

I don't know if it was the acoustics in the classroom, the fact that these were all-metal machines (no light-weight plastic bodies like our current computerized models), or that I was just enamored with these vintage little gems, but the sound of these vintage machines singing "free-motion a cappella" was fabulous!
Jeanette uses a Singer 301A model for
free-motion quilting.
After drawing designs on the white board and on paper, students practiced free-motion quilting on their quilt sandwiches… loops… waves… curves… paisley shapes...
Intro to Free-motion Quilting class.
We also talked about and worked on free-motion feathers. This is a popular motif and almost always requested by the students in my free-motion classes. In Saturday's class, we had a bonus exchange of feather design ideas. Anna, the shop owner of Sew 'n So Quilt Shop, where the class was held, was interested in my approach to quilting feathers. (Anna offers long-arm quilting services at her shop.) After I drew the feather that I recommend for beginners, I asked her to step up to the white board. So she drew a couple of her go-to feather designs for the students. How fab is that??
Drawing quilting motifs on the white board.
One of the cool (and best!) things about quilting feathers—and any free-motion quilting design, for that matter—is that there are so many variations and no right or wrong way of doing them! (Remember, there are no quilt police, so you can do whatever you want.) Use the motifs and designs you like, the ones that fit your style of quilting, or those that complement the flavor of the quilt you're working on. And you can do this on an antique or vintage sewing machine if you like!

Have fun… because that's what it's all about. Right?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Intro to Free-motion Quilting—last class of the year

Detail of free-motion quilting: "The Juggler"
There is still time to get one more Free-motion Quilting class under your [quilting] belt this year. Meet me at Sew 'n So Quilt Shop on Saturday, December 5. I'll be teaching my Intro to Free-motion Quilting class—bring a lunch and we'll have a good time dropping the feed dogs.

As part of this class, I bring Show and Tell of several of my pieces to provide inspiration and ideas for thread choices, quilting motifs, and whatever the class wants to know about the quilts. I think I'll bring my latest Guild Challenge piece, "The Juggler" (detail shown left) which I blogged about here and here. "The Juggler" involved 26.5 hours of free-motion quilting time and emptied 7.5 bobbins of 60 wt. thread.

It's getting close to the bottom of the year when quilters are generally focused on the finishing touches on their hand-crafted gifts, attending guild holiday potlucks or planning menus for the family festivities. However, if you need a break from the holiday craziness, contact Anna at Sew 'n So Quilt Shop and tell you you want to give free-motion quilting a try.

Just think of all those "quilty projects" you can get a jump start on for next Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Juggler": the Process, Part II

"The Juggler" quilt top before quilting.
This is Part II of the back story for my 2015 Guild Challenge entry, "The Juggler." Part I can be found at this post.

After settling on the layout of the blocks and triangles, the paper pieced "juggling balls" were reverse appliquéd to the background.

Layering, pin basting and quilting began at this point…

Quilting, rulerwork: Radiating lines were chalked onto the quilt top. I decided to get more experience with free-motion ruler work and this was a good opportunity. Once these lines were quilted (100 wt. InvisaFil soft poly), the spikes were outlined in the ditch (100 wt. InvisaFil) and the background fills commenced...

Rulerwork radiating lines surrounded by
free-motion pebble pattern.
In addition to a charcoal grey cotton thread (50 wt. 2 ply Aurifil), the colors of the quilting threads (40 wt. polyester, Isacord) echoed the colors of the fabrics of the appliquéd balls: turquoise, lime green, burnt orange, cream and a red violet. It was fun to quilt with the colored poly thread as it was much easier to see on the background. (Grey on black… what was I thinking???)
Radiating lines (ruler work) with a pebble filler.
More pebbles surround the outlined paper pieced spikes.
Here is a detail of how pieces from the panel (mummies and pumpkins) were collaged to form one of the juggler's balls. 75% of the panel had to be used on the quilt top.
Collaged circle with pebble filler.
Two more paper pieced star-balls using fussy cut areas from the panel.
Scavenging bits of similar colors from the fabric panel
for the paper pieced stars.
Another paper-pieced star. You can see bits of the Halloween images from the panel.
Free-motion quilting around the strip of triangles.
Hand appliqué and decorative hand stitching: Upon completion of the machine quilting, the binding was also attached by machine. The felted wool circles were then positioned, basted and hand appliquéd with my new favorite thread for hand stitching—a No. 8 perle cotton Eleganza by WonderFil Threads—using a buttonhole stitch. I enjoyed matching up solid and variegated threads to coordinate with the multi-colored wool circles.
Hand appliquéd wool circles were attached after machine quilting.
Perle cotton threads and embroidery floss for hand stitching.
Quilt Stats:
26.5 hours machine quilting; 7.5 bobbins
3 hours hand stitching and appliqué 14 wool circles.
Top threads: 40 wt. Isacord poly, 100 wt. InvisaFil soft poly (ruler work, outlines and background fillers), 50 wt. 2 ply cotton Aurifil (background fillers), No. 8 2-ply perle cotton and embroidery floss (hand stitching)
Bobbin: Bottom Line 60 wt. polyester.
Finished quilt size: 39.5" x 48.5"
"The Juggler" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
39.5" x 48.5"
"The Juggler" was voted First Place, Viewers' Choice, at the 2015 Choo Choo Challenge.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mixed media fun at Ephemera Paducah

My mixed media Christmas tree canvas
from class at Ephemera Paducah.
Don't you love it when a spontaneous invitation magically crosses your path—or pops into your InBox? I was fortunate to have this happen last week while traveling to Paducah, KY.

I contacted art friends Rose and Kristin to see if they were free for dinner while I was in town. For different reasons, they were both unavailable... but Kristin declined the dinner invite because she was hosting Mixed Media Night at her shop, Ephemera Paducah. She was teaching this Christmas Tree canvas à la Christy Tomlinson and said, "if you get a wild hair… stop by."

What an unexpected opportunity for me and a wonderful change of pace from quilting and fabric. Yes, I'm there!

So I joined in and it was so much fun hanging out with Kristin and her mixed media group of paper crafters and scrapbookers. These paper artists have a slightly different style and process than quilters and fabric people, but it was good to get out of my comfort zone and try creating with different tools and materials.
Starting with a blank canvas (literally) and tissue papers.
Instead of fabric… it was paper. Instead of thread and stitch… it was gel medium. Instead of a quilt sandwich… it was a canvas. It was glorious, stress-free and liberating! (Also a nice change of scenery to be on the other side of the teaching podium.)

Kristin's introduction to the class started with one of the fundamental rules of mixed media, "It's only paper!" With that, everyone smiled and was at ease. I think the axiom to this rule in the quilting world is, "It's only fabric." No problem, I can work with that.
Kristin (center) teaching the mixed media project to the scrapbookers.
We worked with paper, paint and stencilled layers to build up the canvas. One of the final steps to the project entailed the "Glitter Station." Need I say more??
Glitter station at Mixed Media Nite.
In the front area of the store, Knit Night was also happening that evening, so there was wall-to-wall creative energy flowing throughout. (Hi again to Maureen, Haley and Cathy from Paper Pieces!) Mixed media workshop students could take advantage of a 25% discount that day on supplies and most other Ephemera goodies… another reason to visit and take a class.

Kristin is a fabulous instructor and Ephemera's proprietor and you're sure to meet other like-minded makers and creatives when you stop in. The Ephemera web site has a calendar of on-going activities and special upcoming workshops with national instructors. Make time for a visit next time you're in or near Paducah.
Ephemera Paducah at night.
"Night, night, Epherma!" Until next time...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Guild Challenge entry: The Juggler
The Process, Part I

"The Juggler"
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
My guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, had our Guild Challenge reveal last week. The Challenge was called "Beyond the Panel" and a fabric panel of our choosing  was the impetus for each piece. Although we were expecting 13-14 entries, 11 completed quilts comprised the final display.

My team was in charge of creating and organizing this year's Guild Challenge. (We break the guild membership into teams that alternate hosting meetings and presenting programs throughout the year.) I am happy to say that each member of my team—Dawn, Betty, Theresa and I—completed pieces for the Challenge. Our four pieces, and others that were part of the display, can be seen in this post on the guild's blog.

When you decide to submit an entry in a Guild Challenge, the majority of the time seems to be the percolation period for potential ideas or quilt layouts. My piece, "The Juggler" did not start off with this composition, but somehow "morphed" into this final layout. Here is Part I of the back story [my process] for my entry.

This was the panel I decided to use. It's a 24" panel with a Halloween theme. I was drawn to the bright, jewel toned color palette—something I could work with.
Original fabric panel from StudioE Fabrics.
Auditioning companion fabrics: For the Challenge requirements, 75% of the panel needed to appear on the front of the quilt. Additional fabrics could be added to compose a piece between 36" and 70" on each side.
Auditioning companion fabrics.
Without a firm layout in mind, I gathered several fabrics that could be used in the piece as needed. Of this group, however, two found their way into the final piece (see arrows below). I think you need to have an abundance of choices up front which can be whittled down during the process if necessary.
Possible fabrics. The arrows indicate those that were ultimately chosen.
Experimentation and Discovery: One of the reasons I like guild Challenges is because they give you an opportunity to try something new—a product, technique, construction method, etc.—in a controlled environment (your guild) with people who know your work and you are comfortable with (your fellow guild members). I had this roll of "Sew and Fold on a Roll" Tri-angles that I decided to give a try. They were very close in size to the horizontal center stripe of my panel (the row of creepy houses and scary trees).
"Sew and Fold" paper with test sample.
I didn't have the companion 36-degree ruler for this process (which would have been so much easier!), but was able to make a paper template to cut out the appropriate sized fabric pieces. I did a test using scrap fabrics first (above), then pre-cut the pieces from the panel (below).
Triangle pieces cut from the panel center.
Using the Design Wall: At this point, I was still experimenting with layout… with the initial design that I thought would incorporate paper piecing and improv piecing.
Composition begins on the design wall.
A design wall is imperative for this stage.

In the mean time, I found these felted wool dots and wool square charm packs at two quilt shops in my travels. With my Challenge in mind, the colors and circle shapes prompted the purchase.
Felted wool bits add another option to the composition.
 So, with these new bits now in the layout mix, the layout "morphed" into… the juggler.
The Juggler begins to take form.
The placement and arrangement of the triangles was probably the most difficult to decide. The design wall and a digital camera are excellent tools for this stage of the process. (Gee, it would have been grand to have a digital camera back in my paste-up days.)
Potential design layouts.
Stay tuned for the quilting and finishing stages in a future blog post. [Part II is at this post.]
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