Friday, December 23, 2016

Giving the promise of a quilt

We've all heard the axiom, "It's the thought that counts." As quilters, we also know that sometimes a deadline draws nigh and there's no way in you-know-where that a bed quilt is going to be quilted/bound/labeled in time to be gift-wrapped before that deadline. So, the next best thing is to give the "promise of a quilt"—the quilt top with an enclosed label. You quilters know that this is totally legit! 
"Parasol Blossoms" is going to a new home on Christmas this year.
In this box is the "Parasol Blossoms" quilt top and a label. I designed and pieced the top and my friend and very accomplished long-arm quilter, Pat, from Stitch 'N Quilt, will be doing the quilting in the near future. My husband and I shipped the box off to its new home and someone in our family will be receiving this "promise" on December 25 as a gift from her spouse. I hope she likes it.

The other axiom of which we're all familiar is, "Last-minute planning on your part doesn't necessarily mean RUSH on my part," (especially during the holiday season). So we do the best we can and send it with our wish for a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A day in the life of a fabric represenatative

Boxes of fabric goodness.
At my doorstep, a cardboard mountain. Boxes wait for me to open the door and bustle them inside.

and petite ribboned packages...

filled with ...
woven inspiration,
creative, joyful possibilities,
the seeds for soon-to-be
feelings of accomplishment and excitement
that comes from the making of something
with one's hands.

I'll soon be showing these goodies to independent quilt shop and sewing center owners who will share the excitement with you.

This is the life of a multi-line fabric representative. Welcome to a corner of my world.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

ATCs: Street Art

We often use materials such as paint, chalk, yarn and other fibers in our ATCs [Artist Trading Cards] and other artwork, but these mediums are also used to create Street Art.
"Yarn Bombing" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

Street Art is a form of art or self-expression that is created in public areas. It's also referred to as public art, urban art, street installations, and graffiti. The word, graffiti, (plural of the Italian word, graffito) means a drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface (from archaeology).

The theme for the November/December FiberAntics ATC swap was "Street Art." Have you seen any public art displays similar to these in your neighborhood?
"Rakin' up" by Cathy Dillon

"Street Art"  by Diane Pineschi 

"Street Art" by Karen Downer

"Street Art by David Zinn" by Dawn Spagna
"Bon Hiver (Happy Winter)" by Marilyn League.
"Street Art" by Diane Pineschi
"Street Art" by Cathy Dillon
"Street Art" by Diane Pineschi

"The Sky Scarf" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
On my trip to Houston for Quilt Market at the end of October, these ghosts floating in the breeze for Halloween in Discovery Green Park next to the convention center.
Ghosts swinging from the trees in Discovery Green Park.
Houston, TX
Houston is also sponsoring the Art Blocks project that infuses colorful and compelling art into a three-block promenade on Main Street, in downtown Houston.
Art Blocks public art project.
This is one of the Art Blocks installations. It reminded me of a Dr. Seuss hat.
Art Blocks installation, downtown Houston.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

No thinking free-motion quilting

Ever need to just move a quilt sandwich under the needle and let the rhythm of the motion lead you in the quilting dance? Whether you call it "practice," "free-form," "graffiti" or "therapy" quilting, sometimes ya just gotta do a quilt without having a pre-conceived design or plan.
No plan, no thinking... just free-motion quilting.
This is why I so enjoy making kitty/doggie quilts:
  • they're a small format;
  • they use up scraps and orphan blocks;
  • a pattern is not required;
  • they can be totally improv—in piecing and quilting;
  • they're not a large investment in time... or materials;
  • they can be completed totally by machine... including the binding!
  • and you can just enjoy the process without stressing over matched intersections, perfect points and consistent stitches.
Improv free-motion quilting.
To me, it's like having a dance partner who is a good lead and can maneuver the dance floor with style and ease—a partner that makes the dancing interesting, a little unpredictable but smooth and enjoyable as you whirl to the music and glide around the dance floor. You know the steps... you know the cues... all you do is relinquish the lead to someone else and enjoy the dancing.

Here's my latest little quilt—no pattern and no plan. I had fun with several free-motion fillers—spirals, headbands, shells, loops, bubbles/pebbles, and curvy designs. The counterpoint was added with rulerwork and zig-zags in various places.

I have a small drawer where I keep left-over binding tails from binding other quilts. You know, the lengths of folded fabric strips that are trimmed off after the final join. This was my source for the scrappy (also quick and easy) binding on this quilt.
Piecing left-over binding scraps from other quilts.
With machine binding, just remember to first attach it to the quilt back instead of the front.
Scrappy binding totally done by machine.
Here it is...
   29" x 29"
   Scrappy.    Improv.    All by machine.   Finished.
Finished size: 29" x 29"
Thank you [curtsey] for a lovely dance.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Colors and textures for the Winter season

With Thanksgiving behind us, the shorter days and colder temperatures brings a focus to the winter season. The landscape has turned to russet and chestnut browns on the tree-filled hillsides, mossy greens on the forest floors, and ash grey, charcoal and ebony in the post-harvest fields.

In perusing my Art Gallery fabric collections, I found these prints that reflect the colors and textures of the season. A cooler, muted color palette can be accented with warm mustard, gold, cardinal red, aubergine or boysenberry for a touch of warmth and richness.

The print at the left is a panel from a recently released collection called Lagom. "Lagom" is Swedish for "just the right amount." (I love that thought.) For inspiration, visit the Lagom Look Book.

From the Forest Floor collection are these two timber prints.
From the Forest Floor collection by Bonnie Christine.
From the Forest Floor collection by Bonnie Christine.
Among the other favorites from Hello Bear is this landscape print.
From Hello Bear by Bonnie Christine
Some birds have made their migration southbound. For those that stay close to home, we'll fill the bird feeders and hope the squirrels don't get there first.
One of the many Timeless Prints from Art Gallery Fabrics.
I like these stylized owls from the Heartland collection. It would be fun to superimpose the grey and mustard owls in a strippy patchwork to make the owls two-tone. The grey version also comes in a knit. Here is the Heartland Look Book.
From the Heartland collection by Pat Bravo.
The pine tree prints from Heartland would make great throw pillows or pillowcases to dress the bed.
From the Heartland collection by Pat Bravo.
So if you're looking for a diversion from the traditional red/green or blue/white color schemes this season, look for these fabrics at YLQS [your local quilt shop]. They're apropos for the entire winter season—through the holidays and into the new year.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Foothills guild and Mountain Creek Quilt Shop
partner for Free-motion Quilting workshop

Foothills Quilters having fun in my Intro to Free-motion Quilting class.
What better way to spend a beautiful November day than with a room full of lively, inquisitive quilters... teaching them the how, whats and whys of dropping the feed dogs for free-motion quilting? I had the pleasure this week to do just that—teaching my Introduction to Free-motion Quilting on a domestic sewing machine—with 21 members of the Blount County Foothills Quilters Guild in Maryville, Tennessee.

The quiltmaking experience for the quilters in my class ranged from beginner quiltmakers (with only about a year or two doing patchwork) to more experienced quiltmakers. The motivation for signing up for my full-day workshop varied among the members. Here is a collection of the reasons they shared:

  • Many wanted to learn how to use their domestic sewing machines to both piece and free-motion quilt their projects themselves. 
  • Several indicated they were hand quilters and were beginning to experience arthritis in their hands/fingers. They were searching for other methods to get their quilts finished. 
  • Several were looking for a way to incorporate new, more curvy, and alternate quilting designs into their quilts that the walking foot did not easily accommodate. 
  • Some wanted guidance or ideas on how to choose a quilting design for their quilt tops.
After hearing these quilters tell their varied reasons and motivation for signing up for my Intro to Free-motion Quilting class, I understood why the class filled so quickly—within a couple weeks after the announcement about my class was made at a guild meeting.

In class, everyone pushed themselves out of their comfort zones during the drawing/warm-up step of the FMQ [free-motion quilting] process. We worked with continuous line doodles from right to left rather than the familiar left to right direction.
Warm-ups for free-motion designs with paper and pencil.
Be sure to run out to pick up a new sketchbook! Get the 14" x 17" size or larger. Remember quilters, it's all about the "muscle memory"!
Drawing exercises involved stretching our doodling skills. 
The drawing exercises were then transferred to hands-on free-motion quilting exercises.
Practicing free-motion quilting designs.
In preparing for this workshop, there was a wonderful partnership between the Foothills Guild and a local quilt shop, Mountain Creek Quilt Shop, Greenback, TN. Gwen, the workshop coordinator for the guild and I worked with Terri and Sam at Mountain Creek Quilt Shop to prepare the class kits. This is an ideal collaboration and illustration of mutual support between all the members of our quilting community—quilters, shops and class instructors! Here are the benefits for doing this:

  • Class participants did not have to research and search for the specific materials I (the instructor) request for class. Everything was cut to size, packaged and ready for my students to hit the ground running in class. 
  • For the instructor, I was assured my beginning students would be using quality materials and therefore be more successful, and the learning process be more enjoyable.
  • An introduction to the local quilt shop and its products is made to any new quilters.
  • The quilt shop becomes aware of the products to stock for the new free-motion quilters.
  • The relationship between a local quilt shop, its customers and quilting instructors is strengthened. 

Terri Ayers, shop owner of Mountain Creek Quilt Shop.
As a bonus, each workshop attendee received a sampling of three different battings in her kit—to try and experiment with. Mountain Creek Quilt Shop also treated attendees to a complementary batting swatch book (samples of different lofts and fiber contents) for reference. Thank you again, Terri and Sam at Mountain Creek Quilt Shop, for recommending me and my Intro to FMQ class to the Foothills Guild and for preparing the kits for the workshop.

Workshop Take-aways
In addition to gaining confidence to try free-motion quilting, one of the take-aways that several students underscored was our discussion on needles, threads, thread weights and fiber content. This discussion proved to be very enlightening and informative for the students and I received lots of great questions while covering these topics.
Practice your new free-motion quilting skills on kitty or doggie quilts.
A tip for practicing free-motion quilting we talked about in class is making kitty (or doggie) cuddle quilts. For the students in my class, here are links to information about these quilts. Click here, here and here.
Thank you to the Foothills Quilters for inviting me to teach
Intro to Free-motion Quilting on a domestic machine.
(Shown above are those that stayed to the very end to help me pack up.)
Thanks again to the Foothills Quilters for hosting me and allowing me to share my passion for quilting with you! A special Thank You goes out to Gwen Lloyd, who was my point person for coordinating all the behind-the-scenes prep and planning for my workshop and visit. I hope everyone gained confidence to give FMQ a try and I'll look forward to seeing your FMQ skills take flight!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Making it "My Tee"

I scored yardage of three beautiful, buttery-soft knits by Art Gallery Fabrics. Yep, there are quilt shops venturing into knits... and stocking their shelves with "other" types of fabrics in addition to our beloved quilting cottons. This is very on-trend and really exciting news for sewers and makers!
Front: My Tee made with Morse Dot Sun by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics.
Back: existing ready-made top from my wardrobe.
With not much time for sewing these days, I wanted an easy pattern for a Tee or knit pullover top. Someone suggested (yes, Walter, I used your idea) to make a pattern from an existing top. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right?
Making a pattern from an existing knit t-shirt.
Making a pattern from an existing top was actually quite easy to do. It also cut out a lot of "futsing around" time that comes with having to fit a standard commercial pattern to your not-so-standard body. (The necessary evil part of making a first-time garment that I dislike doing.)

There are many on-line sources for quick tutorials on doing making patterns from existing clothes. Here is one from the experts at Threads Magazine. Here is another. Or do a quick Google search to find something that makes sense to you.

TIP: One thing I have learned through modifying and fitting my garment patterns is to make sure the front and back pattern pieces where the shoulders meet are the same width.
Make sure the front and back shoulders are the same width.
I did follow the instruction sheet from a commercial pattern for the step-by-step garment construction. The sleeves were set in rather than attaching them flat and then sewing up the side seam. This works better for me. TIP: use the free-arm on your sewing machine for set-in sleeves.

The commercial pattern also provided insight for creating a neckband to enclose the raw edges at the neckline. This was similar to attaching a binding on a quilt—a process in which I'm familiar. TIP: You can also use the fabric yardage information on the pattern envelope to estimate yardage needed for your project.
Using a commercial pattern for the assembly steps.
TIPs: Use a ballpoint sewing machine needle made for sewing knits. If you have a serger, use it to finish the seam allowances for a nice, clean finish on the inside (it's fast, too). Otherwise, the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine will work.

The pattern instructions also said to slightly stretch the fabric as you sew so the stitching won't break as the knit stretches. I'm not totally convinced on this as the hems on my Tee were ruffly in some places. I'll have to research this more. All in all, the process was painless and I'm happy with the final result. 
Morse Dot Sun by Katarina Roccella in knit for Art Gallery Fabrics.
With the weather turning colder, these other Art Gallery knits are slated for long sleeve Tees. These knit prints are from the Etno (front) by Pat Bravo and Forest Floor (mushrooms) by Bonnie Christine collections.
Etno and Forest Floor knits from Art Gallery.
Do you see a knit project in your future? I can highly recommend sewing and wearing the knits from Art Gallery Fabrics. Ask YLQS [your local quilt shop] if they will carry knits... and be sure you support them when they do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ATCs: Creatures of the Night

"Ghosties on the Loose"
by Cathy Dillon
Appropriate for the Halloween celebrations, the FiberAntics Artist Trading Card (ATC) theme for October was "Creatures of the Night."

While witches, goblins, princesses, super heroes and cartoon characters were Trick-or-Treating in your neighborhood, the artists in this month's ATC swap had other creatures of the night on their minds.

Here they are...

"Joyful Halloween"
by Dawn Spagna

"Creatures of the Night"
by Diane Pineschi

"Creatures of the Night" by Karen Downer

"Jonathan Frid, My Favorite Barnabas"
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
Oh, and you know there's a story behind this ATC...
"My New Old Boyfriend"
by Marilyn League
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

ATCs: In the Kitchen, My Town

"In the Kitchen 1910" by Marilyn League.
So, what happens in your kitchen? Cooking, baking, eating... maybe a little dancing?

In our kitchen, the cooking utensils, food canisters, a bread box, cutting boards, microwave and panini maker span the kitchen counters. How 'bout you? Do the gadgets line up around your kitchen begging, "Use me next! Use me next!"?

There were two themes for the September Artist Trading Card (ATC) swap. The first is "In the Kitchen."

"Save your Fork. Dessert is coming."
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

Wouldn't it be fun and interesting to use the old, tried-and-true family recipes with today's state-of-the-art cooking technology and gadgets?
"Generations in my Kitchen" by Cathy Dillon.

This is the inside of Cathy's ATC. You could write in your own family favorite.
"Generations in my Kitchen" by Cathy Dillon (inside).

"In the Kitchen" by Diane Pineschi.

"In the Kitchen" by Dawn Spagna

The other ATC theme was "My Town." It's fun to be an armchair traveler and visit the landmarks and tourist attractions via Artist Trading Cards.
"Santa Monica" by Dawn Spagna.

"My Town: Los Angeles" by Diane Pineschi.

"My hometown, Arlington Heights, IL"
by Cathy Dillon

"Chattanooga and Moon Pies" by Karen Downer

"You can take the girl out of the Windy City..."
by Veronica Hofman-Ortega

"One Woman's Gardin is a City's Weeds."
by Marilyn League
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