Saturday, April 30, 2016

ATCs: Signs of Spring

"Signs of Spring" by Karen Downer.
Here in the northern hemisphere, the first official day of Spring—the vernal equinox—was March 20, 2016. Depending on where you live and the climate in your area, the signs that Spring has arrived can be varied.

The FiberAntics Artist Trading Card (ATC) theme for the April swap was "Signs of Spring." Once again, I was surprised and delighted to see the things the ATC artists regarded as signs that Spring had arrived in their part of the country.

As we bid Au Revoir to April and look onward into the month of May, what are the signs that you look for—or look forward to—that signify that Spring has arrived?

It's been said that whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, February 2, predicts an early Spring or 6 more weeks of winter.
"Signs of Spring" by Diane Pineshi.
Oh, it's been a while since I've seen a bike with a banana seat! How about you?
"Signs of Spring? Seeing Bicycles out again." by Bonnie Stevens
The birds are singing...
"Twitter Messages" by Paula Fagerberg
and scavenging for twigs and string to pad their nests.
"Baby Blue Birds of Happiness" by Sharon Griffith
Do you prepare beds or a garden for flowers or vegetables?
"Signs of Spring" by Dawn Spagna.
Cathy has already made her first rhubarb pie of the season. No strawberries in her pie.
"Rhubarb Pie" by Cathy Dillon
Debbie looks forward to mild temperatures and picnics...
"Signs of Spring" for me means warm sunshine, picnics, butterflies and lady bugs.
by Debbie Joyner
... and days with a low pollen count (thank you very much!).
"Signs of Spring" by Marilyn League.
"Spring Blooms" by Veronica Hofman-Ortega
So now that you've seen to fronts of the cards, occasionally, there are interesting things on the backs of ATCs that tell another part of the story...
Left: Spring blooms.
Right: Apparently there are NO strawberries in this Rhubarb pie.
Left: A dragonfly accompanies the flowers on the front.
Right: This ATC artist has recycled a delivery box for her cards.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Free-motion quilting doubleheader in Huntsville

Free-motion quilting on display at
Huntsville Sew and Vac, Huntsville, AL
The quilts and samples were hung...

two classrooms were ready...

the feed dogs were dropped...

and the anticipation and excitement leading up to a 2-day adventure in free-motion quilting at Huntsville Sew and Vac [Huntsville, AL] was rewarded with a classroom of Huntsville area quilters eager to learn and full of questions and ideas (and, by the way, the weather was perfect—pleasant and mild).

Day 1 was my class, Intro to Free-motion Quilting on a domestic sewing machine. This is my most requested class and Donna, the shop owner, has invited me to teach this class for 3 years now. We introduce beginners to free-motion quilting and prime them for more advanced techniques that I offer in several other classes. A good number of the students in this class had dabbled in free-motion (or were return students from previous years), so were also in my Defining Contours class the following day. Yep, they signed up for a doubleheader!
"Defining Contours," my new free-motion quilting class.
Day 2 was even more fun for me since Defining Contours is a new class offering. Students came to class with an "inspiration word" which we then highlighted through several free-motion quilting techniques—machine trapunto, micro fillers and ruler work.
Machine trapunto, "Imagine."
One of my favorite parts of this class was hearing students tell the story behind the word they chose for their project. When I teach, I like to build in opportunities for personalization and student's self-expression into my classes. We talked about creating meaning in our words by using our own handwriting—not computer technology—to create an original composition.
Free-motion quilting in "Defining Contours" class.
Inspiration words that students chose were "Imagine," "Create," "Grace," "Faith," and "Joy," among others.
Free-motion quilting in "Defining Contours" class.
The class kits, provided by Huntsville Sew and Vac, included fabrics from the Blue Bird collection (by Jennifer Brinley) and Peppered Cottons (by Pepper Cory) from StudioE Fabrics. Peppered Cottons is a wonderful fabric for showcasing the micro fillers and ruler work on this project. Blue Bird provided a lovely frame around the word and also offered bird and flower motifs for additional trapunto—if the student desired.
Free-motion quilting in "Defining Contours" class.
The painting and basting classroom was filled with laughter and chatter as students prepared their quilts for quilting.
Trimming, and basting.
The larger classroom provided plenty of wall space to hang examples of how a colorwashed effect can be achieved through the choice of thread color. Students used 100 wt. InvisaFil thread by WonderFil for their Defining Contours project. For the ruler work portion of the class, students were introduced to the Sew Very Smooth rulers with the "Tacky Technology" strip which helps prevent the ruler from slipping during the stitching process.
The classroom at Huntsville Sew and Vac with examples of
free-motion quilting and threadwork.
All of the students got their trapunto work complete and were on their way to defining the contours of their inspiration words with micro fillers and ruler work. Free-motion quilting micro fillers is not a fast process, but the results are so worth it! There is an investment of time with these techniques but if you like free-motion quilting, you will enjoy this journey.

So, that is a wrap of my doubleheader free-motion quilting classes this past weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. Judging from the round of applause at the end of the second day, I think everyone hit one out of the park! I can't wait to see photos of the class projects. (Please send them to me, Huntsville quilters!)
Tucking in the sewing machine for a good night's rest.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the new places we went for dinner while in Huntsville. The first night was at the Po Boy Factory, just down the street from Huntsville Sew and Vac. After a full afternoon and evening of hanging quilts and preparing the classroom, it was dark outside and we were all tired so I didn't take any pictures. However, I can recommend the shrimp basket and deep-fried pickles... and the homemade bread pudding is gooey, melt-in-your-mouth goodness!
Homemade pizza and wine for dinner.
The second night was homemade, build-your-own, artisan pizzas at Chez Spivey. Chef Reggie does a fabulous job with the pizza oven! Thanks again to Donna Cagle, Sherri and all the staff at Huntsville Sew and Vac for their hospitality and to the Huntsville quilters who joined me for a two-day adventure in free-motion quilting. May your bobbins always be full!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Defining Contours with trapunto

My "Making Faces" sample with free-motion fillers
and machine trapunto.
This [in-progress] sample is part of the Show and Tell for my "Defining Contours" free-motion quilting class at Huntsville Sew and Vac this Saturday, April 16.

The face was from a "Making Faces" workshop with Melissa Averinos (fabulous teacher, by the way) and I've paired it with machine trapunto, free-motion micro fillers and ruler work—techniques I'll be teaching in "Defining Contours."

The first photo shows where I started free-motion quilting at the top and around the word "listen." The thread is WonderFil Invisafil 100 wt. 2-ply poly thread. The photo below has more free-motion work in the background and vertical quilting lines on the face. The 100wt. is barely visible and does not detract from or obstruct the face.
More quilting.
I'm testing a new-to-me batting from Air Lite Manufacturing for the trapunto work. It's the Bond Tight Lined 100% poly batting; low loft. I used a single layer for "listen." You can better see the dimension that is created with the trapunto in the photo below. The full layer of batting (the base layer) is also by Air Lite—Colour Me Cotton, cotton/polyester blend (85% cotton, 15% poly).
Machine trapunto with Air Lite batting.
I'll write up a batting review once the piece is finished and blocked.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Defining Contours with free-motion quilting

Do you "Believe" you're ready for a new adventure in free-motion quilting? I believe you are! And there are two opportunities coming up next week—one for beginners and another for those with a little free-motion experience.
"Defining Contours" free-motion quilting class at Huntsville Sew and Vac.
I'm teaching "Defining Contours" in Huntsville at Huntsville Sew and Vac on Saturday, April 16. This is one of my newest free-motion quilting classes. Geared toward quilters with some free-motion experience, this class goes more in depth with fillers and micro fillers. Come to class with your "inspiration word" in mind and we'll work with several free-motion quilting techniques to define and highlight it. I blogged about this class in a bit more detail in this post.

Intro to Free-motion Quilting class.
If you're new to free-motion quilting, sign up for my "Intro to Free-motion Quilting [on a domestic machine]" class. This beginner class in scheduled in Huntsville on Friday, April 15.

If free-motion quilting is new to you, or you want to brush up, this is the class for you. No prior experience necessary! We talk about needles, threads and batting in this class—and all the basics to make you successful. And I bring along a trunk show of my quilts for Show and Tell for quilting inspiration.

With a spacious new classroom at Huntsville Sew and Vac, there are a few openings left in both classes. Call the store today at (256) 536-3757 to register.

I'm also going to bring an improv Kitty Quilt for those interested in trying out one of the store's sit-down quilting machines.

We always have fun at Huntsville Sew and Vac. Donna, the owner, and her staff go the extra mile for the students and customers. I'm looking forward to spending two days dropping the feed dogs and having some free-motion fun. 
The back of the "Believe" class sample. You can see the free-motion quilting.
Why not come to Huntsville and join me on April 15-16? Taxes are done, so come and relax with friends and have some fun with your sewing machine! Believe me. You can do this!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A quilting class with Pepper Cory—the complete package

Pepper Cory at A Mountain Quiltfest.
Last month, my quilting buddy, Cristy, and I were fortunate to get the last two openings in Pepper Cory's "Sweet Potato Quilts" class at A Mountain Quiltfest. Aside from Pepper Cory being a prolific quilter, a respected teacher and author, and an icon in the quilting industry, she is a fabric designer for StudioE Fabrics—one of the companies I rep. StudioE produced a number of Pepper's previous fabric collections and now offers her two current collections— Peppered Cottons and Brushstrokes—in its lineup. So, I wanted... I needed... to take a class... any class... she was teaching at the Quiltfest... just so I could... meet... her... in person! (ooooh, I was so thrilled to get in!)

If you've ever taken a class from Pepper Cory (and I hope I get the opportunity again), you know what I mean when I say "with Pepper, you get the complete package." Her extensive background in quilting and knowledge of all areas of the industry are woven throughout her discussion of the class project, the tools you're using, and in the demonstration of the technique. You get tips and instruction to help you with the class project, but you'll discover that other choice little nuggets get tossed into your toolbox for use in your quiltmaking endeavors down the road.

The project for this class, "Sweet Potato Quilts," was inspired by an antique quilt in Pepper's collection. Students were treated to the story behind this scrappy, orange-and-brown quilt as well as a history lesson about quilts from that era and the quiltmakers who made them.
Pepper Cory discusses the background of the orange and brown antique quilt.
Following the introduction to the project and the overview of the quilt block, there was an exploration of each student's fabrics. All the class participants got Pepper's suggestions and guidance on colors and prints that would work for our quilts. With the suggestions, Pepper interjected a lesson and Q&A on the Elements and Principles of Design and how they should be considered when making fabric choices. (See what I mean by the "complete package"?)
Fabric selections for my sweet potato quilt.
Pepper even helped one student re-draft the block pattern to suit her fabrics (a.k.a the complete package!).
Pepper helps a student re-draft the quilt block.
Several examples of sweet potato quilts were shown during the class. A handout and pattern for the block was provided. We had a demonstration on "marking" the paper foundations for the blocks (a new technique for me). And there was a discussion not only about piecing blocks and potential block layouts for the top, but consideration for potential quilting designs for hand and machine quilting. After all, it's not a quilt 'til it's quilted, right?
The Baptist fan design can be done by hand or machine.
These are examples of both (left by hand, right by machine).
Pepper enjoys big stitch quilting and discussed threads as well as thread manufacturers. Did you know that one thread company, Presencia, offers a 3-ply 60 wt. cotton? (Bonus nugget!)
Hand quilting on Pepper's current project using the big stitch (left), and
the hand quilting on a the antique quilt—showing knots and all (right).
Along with the big stitch, Pepper includes decorative embroidery stitches (see the white feather stitch on the lower left of the photo) on her quilts.
Detail of Big Stitch quilting and embroidery stitches
on one of Pepper Cory's Sweet Potato quilt.
By late afternoon of this full-day class, students had one or two completed blocks. Pepper assembled the group outside the classroom for a display of everyone's accomplishments. Even though we each chose different fabrics, the star block unified the composition and all our blocks could have easily been assembled together into a lovely quilt. Pepper suggested this block would be perfect for a group quilt or a block swap. (Again, the complete package.)
A group discussion of the Sweet Potato star block with ideas for
additional applications.
Students' Sweet Potato star blocks made in class.
As in many a class, unexpected situations or "teaching opportunities" can arise. The best teachers, in my opinion, are those that can capitalize on these unplanned instances and turn them into benefits—or "bonuses"—for the class participants. During a break, I brought in my fabric color card and quilt samples using Peppered Cottons. This is a clip of Pepper talking about her shot cotton fabric line [Peppered Cottons] and graciously promoting a vendor that had them in a booth on the show floor.
The second sample (quilt top) is a modified version of a pattern called "Point Taken" by
Boutiques and More. It uses two charm packs of Peppered Cottons by StudioE Fabrics.

Cristy and I invited Pepper to join us during the lunch break and she did. It was great to have lunch with Pepper and also bounce around ideas about StudioE's fabric lines—especially the new 108" Peppered Cotton wide backings that will be coming out this fall. Stay tuned! Be sure to contact YLQS (your local quilt shop) and request them.
Me with Pepper Cory at A Mountain Quiltfest.
A Mountain Quiltfest and Pepper Cory's class was a delightful and energizing experience for me. It was fun to spend the day piecing scrappy quilt blocks (on the student's side of the table), and listen to and learn from such a high caliber teacher. There were several other golden nuggets that I and my fellow students took away from this class—too many to mention here. Just know that if you ever get the chance to take a quilting class with Pepper Cory, don't miss it! She's the complete package.

This embellished photo is for Scott, the president of StudioE. Think his ears were burning???
Our outfits were even color-coordinated!
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