Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dresden Fans

This is the second of three very different quilts – all made from the same pattern. And, all made by the same person. The choice of fabric changes their personality greatly. When I quilted the first one, my customer said she was going to hang it. It is 60 inches square – she has a BIG empty wall! All the walls in my house are already covered with a variety of quilts. No spare space to be had in my house! (And, I have a very understanding husband.)

The first picture is before I loaded it on the frame. Doesn't the path around the middle Dresden just scream to be the center of attention? I thought so, too.

When I quilted the first version, I had plans for a pretty little curl pattern in the blades of the fans. Whoops! You couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see to backtrack on the curls. So, I ripped it out and meandered the busy fabrics. I knew ahead of time, then, that this was the same way to handle this version.

And, here is a picture of how I handled the yellow background.

The last of the three versions is made of Christmas fabrics, so I have permission to let that one slide down the list a bit, as she won't be needing it right away. I'm envisioning a ring of holly leaves, berries and ribbon curls around that center Dresden. Won't that be pretty?!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Quilting the Realistic Quilt

In my neck of the woods (literally, I live where elk and deer roam across the road and through our yards), there are a whole lot of people who LOVE Toni Whitney's designs. Originally a painter, Toni now creates amazingly realistic animal portraits in fabric. Her kits and patterns are very popular here. I've quilted the elk portrait five times now.

The fabric pieces are fused, usually onto a stitched “frame” to surround the image. The first one handed to me had been blown up 50% over the original pattern size. A majestic presence! I've quilted the same elk twice more where it was used as a centerpiece for larger quilts to be used on a bed.

How do you quilt a realistic animal face? The first one of these designs that I saw in a show, was quilted with an outline stitch. Essentially, the stitch line sewed each little fabric piece down, and, of course, quilted the piece at the same time. But, that's not what I saw was needed to maintain the realistic feel that the designer so deliberately set down.

So, I flowed the quilting lines along what I saw as the natural “fur” flow of the animal. I say “fur” although I mean also the mane of the horse, as well as the natural hairs that cover the animals' faces.
The quilting is done in long and short “lazy S” shapes, sometimes flowing off the edge of a fabric piece just a bit, to blur the hard cut edges.

I have a whole lot of appreciation for the makers of these quilts. Tiny pattern pieces are laid out on fabric, watching to take advantage of the natural flow of the design in the fabric. Fabrics are chosen to create the highlights and shadows that make these pieces look so true to life. Then, tiny little edges are cut, moving scissors back and forth until their fingers must hurt. All these little pieces are laid out according to the pattern. Lots of time consuming stuff here!

And, here is Jezebel, wearing her First Place and Exemplary Machine Quilting ribbons from the recent Arizona Quilters Guild show. My customer and I are quite proud of her!

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing were a miracle. The other is as though everything were a miracle.” Albert Einstein

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I love old quilt tops

Don't you? Especially when they come with some great family story, like “I found it in a box under Gramma's bed.” Or, “I think my husbands' great-grandmother made this when she got married.” They usually come crumpled, with stains and a couple of holes to patch up before quilting. But, they are lovely!

This hand-pieced Orange Peel quilt top is beautiful, don't you think? It was brought to me by the granddaughter to be quilted and given to her mother...the daughter of the original maker. I patched the holes in the border, pressed out the majority of the crumples and got to the quilting. Is it stained, yes, and so not square, but that's all part of its legacy. I found the perfect mini-print at WalMart (the best place to find old-looking fabrics that match up with the old mini-floral prints in the top).

I suggested to the granddaughter that I would machine-stitch the binding down and then give her a lesson on how to wrap the binding to the back and hand-stitch it. She was delighted that she would have a hand in the finished product. Seemed appropriate, don't you think?

I have had the honor to finish many old tops over my years as a quilter, even hand-quilting them in my early years. I feel the presence of the original maker when I do, like she is so pleased to have her work appreciated. And, of course, the best part is that something folded up and laid in a closet many years ago can now be proudly displayed on a bed or a quilt rack. What joy!

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.”
Les Brown

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quilting as Ministry

One of the most fulfilling things I've done as a quilter, is head our church Prayer Quilt Ministry for the last ten years. We are a small congregation in a rural area (it's a Town, not a City), but we have been able to create and bless and deliver over 520 quilts to people who need a little more prayer in their lives. We may not know the trials they are going through...we often do not know the people who receive our quilts. The quilts have gone out to many states across the country; requested by someone who did know their need.

One recipient draped her quilt over herself in her hospital bed. Her own church was so impressed that a church she had never been to, and people she had never met, were all praying for her recovery. They decided right then and there to start their own prayer quilt ministry.

It is a great joy to teach the ladies in how to construct the quilts, as many of them were not quilters in the first place. Great praying people, those ladies are, but they needed a little instruction in construction!

I discovered that most of them are rather scared of the rotary cutter, so I cut kits for them out the boxes of donated fabric. That kicked up their enthusiasm! They get to pick the kit of their choice and get right down to the sewing.

Our quilts are tied with yarn, with the ties left rather long. As each prayer is said for the person, a knot is tied. When they receive their quilts, they can place them across their lap, and are literally covered in prayer. How can that not warm the heart of the most needy person. Yes, I am blessed to be a part of this wonderful ministry.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ever work WAY outside of your box?

We all work within our comfort zone most of the time. We know what we are capable of creating, and staying within those parameters usually guarantees a certain amount of success. But, as they say...

I've always wanted to see how a classic silhouette design would look quilted. Dover books are perfect sources for all kinds of designs for the quilting world. I was spurred on to this project when Dover announced a challenge to submit any kind of craft made using one of their fantasy designs. I dug out my silhouette book and picked a garden fairy holding a rose.

Next, I rummaged around for a scrap of satin material (now, just where did I put it?!) and found a piece of blue satin. I transferred the design to the satin with blue washout marker and got to quilting. The piece is only 20x22 inches and the echoing around the fairy ranges from 1/16 to 1/8th inch apart.

Wow, that was an intense experience! First of all, I love how the light reflects off the satin. I highly recommend trying it.

Here is a pale pink satin set of feather designs I did years ago.

Well, no. I didn't win the challenge, didn't even place. But, that's alright. I stretched myself. And it felt good!

So, head straight outside that box you work in! Try satin! Try a design most people don't think of putting on a quilt! Go for it!!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ah, the Joys of the Group Quilt!

You know the kind. It could be a Sampler Quilt where the blocks are made by many quilters as a gift for the Guild President, or, in this particular case, a classic Round Robin quilt. Either way, when many hands are involved, many different sewing machines with different methods of assuring a quarter inch seam, and varying levels of expertise and experience among the participants, well, things can go slightly awry.

If you have not yet participated in a Round Robin, let me explain. First, you get 4 or 5 friendly quilters to join in. Next, each quilter makes a large block, which will be the center of their quilt. You put that block in a bag with a mess of coordinating fabrics and pass the bag on to the next quilter. She must design and execute a pieced or appliqued border to surround the center piece. On it goes to the next quilter, who does the same. When all quilters have added their borders, the quilt comes back to you as a finished piece. Many hands means many techniques and designs, but with the fabrics all picked out in advance, you can end up with a very well coordinated quilt.

I could tell when I loaded this quilt, that the borders were pulled taut, while the center was, shall we say, somewhat “fluffy.” But, I kept on, smoothing with one hand while driving Honey Bee with the other. Worked great until we got to the end of the center section. Hello, Big Ripple!

Now, I realize that all our customers think we can magically “Quilt that out.” But, honestly, this was a tremendous ripple in my eyes!

I had recently read in another quilter's blog of a similar situation. She had decided to take a pleat along the horizontal seam between two borders. She basted the seam down, quilted over it and then removed the basting, all while still loaded on the longarm.

I asked my customer to drop by so that we could discuss how to proceed, and I described this blogger's solution. Her husband asked what would happen if I just go on, smoothing as I go. Well, okay, I'll try...

This picture shows the final product. Amazing! And, no one was more amazed than me! Even the bottom edge of the quilt is hardly distorted at all. Guess I was wrong, we can “Quilt it out!”

Friday, March 1, 2013

An Artful Sampler

I wish to share with you this unique quilt pattern by Sarah Whitney, called Marmalade and Jam, An Artful Sampler. Here is the whole quilt top before I figured out how to quilt the piece. Do you “see” the two large Bear's Paws in the lower corners?

Often I will take a photo of a quilt top, print it out and doodle over the piece. Stumped at first, I figured if the designer sees it as a “sampler” then why can't I quilt it as a quilting design sampler, too? I spent a whole day designing the many different treatments I used for the blocks of color.

You will see free motion designs, as well as ruler-work and the use of commercial stencils and templates. And, of course, I stitched in the ditch (Yes, that dreaded SID!) around the main areas for stability. The SID is done in clear nylon thread. To keep the quilting from overwhelming the whole piece, I used three colors of thread and matched them to the fabrics as much as I could.

The clamshells came out great. I used a stencil to set down the design and then utilized a small circle template to keep my curved lines in order.

The last picture was taken with the machine's fluorescent light on, which is why the lighting looks so strange. That design is all free motion.

For a small piece (less than 40 x 50 inches), it took a good amount of time to do. But, it was so worth it! My customer was pleased.