Sunday, December 28, 2014

Forced Vacation

I haven't been able to quilt for two weeks due to searing pain along the outer edge (little finger to wrist) of my dominant hand. It came on slowly at first, then escalated to intense pain. It has taken me awhile to figure out why and how.

When I quilt tiny little designs (think pebbles) I work slowly, with clenched hands on the handles, especially when backtracking is involved. And, half of each pebble is backtracking! I know I'm not supposed to clench...but it is such intense work and I never quite feel like I'm in control. So, I hold on tighter.

I envy those quilters who can work up a design like pebbles, quickly and easily. But, that's not been my experience. One reason is that I do not have a stitch regulator and therefore must quilt the backtracking at essentially the same hand movement speed as the original line. I've worked ten years without stitch regulation and I still think I'm pretty good at it.

But, I didn't see this coming! I think it is similar to a tennis elbow, or the kind of injuries golfers get that is so like that. So, I had to lay off. Luckily, I had finished all the Christmas quilts that my customers needed by certain dates. Whew!

Not what I had in mind, I must say! I mean, if I wasn't going to be able to quilt, maybe I could catch up on all those other projects......oh, wait.....pain. Yeah, even holding a book open to read that first week was painful.

I won't go on about the herbal and homeopathic remedies I tried, because the only thing my hand needed was rest. But, at some point I've just got to get back to my job (and, my passion)!

My husband (the self-proclaimed “fixer”) came up with a great idea. If clenching my hand created this problem, like I think it did, what if we changed the size of the longarm handle? Make it bigger? So, I wrapped the handle with a strip of cotton batting, and held it in place with a piece of that stretchy ace bandage that sticks to itself. It is now almost 50% larger than it was before.

I've tried it....tentatively. Mainly because, while my hand is much better, there is still pain if I tighten my grip. The best part of the fix is that it constantly reminds me NOT to clench. I don't feel like I have the same control, but I will keep working with it until I do. Because, I really don't want to spend another two weeks like the last two!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do You Quilt Christmas Presents?

I wish I had more time to do this sort of thing. Quilt things for presents, that is. I quilted one for my Guild Gift Exchange, but I did not get pics of it. The fabric had way too much going on and I'm afraid the quilting lines got lost.

This table runner is for a friend at Church. First, I found a sketch of a Celtic Cross on Pinterest. (Do you Pinterest? I could spend a lifetime there!)

This first picture is after quilting just the crosses. I struggled with the placement. Originally I was going to place one cross in the center, but a friend suggested two, one at each end.

This green fabric is Grunge, don't you love it?!! The designs show up so well, but there is still plenty of variation in the print.

Then I got down to the feathering. I did these all freehand, just chalking the spine lightly. I echoed the feather, which gave me a line to hit with my tight back-and-forth lines. Any time you are placing a dense fill behind a feather, it helps if you echo the feather. The fill meets the echo line and doesn't mess with the shape of the feather itself.

I hope you and your family and your dear friends have a warm and wonderful Christmas season! Thank you for following me these past two years, you are a blessing to me!

Monday, November 3, 2014

One terrific Christmas quilt

I was thrilled when this one arrived in my studio. Wonderful applique handwork. I knew it had to be quilted just so. No story here, just lots of photos.

First, the full view of the piece. It took a while to plan this, and then, it was redesigned when the first idea did not work!

More photos after it was done.

This is a closeup of the white poinsettia. This was the hardest part, as it was very hard to see how the petals overlapped when the hopping foot was hovering over them!

Finally, a look at all the tools that helped me along.

Behold the turtle...He only

makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ten Years!

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to turn my mad passion into a profitable business. This is quilt #1,000 and I have so many people to thank. 

John, for believing in me and saying “Go for it!” Debbie, for selling me her Gammill, the best machine in the world. Gina, thank you for your client base so you could pursue your own dream. Monika and Kris for being the most prolific quilt makers (numbers don't lie!). Willene for your early support and encouragement. 

And, all of you, my customers, my friends and my family for the best ten years. I love you all!

This is Jane's quilt, my Number 1,000!!! Woo Hoo!!!

When you reach the end of the light of the world, and you step out into the darkness, trust that one of two things will will step onto something solid, or you will be taught to fly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Anyone love vintage tops?

I love vintage quilt tops, even when they are somewhat wonky. Sometimes their seams don't match and they will not lay flat for anything! They pose their own problems when considering the quilting plan.

Firstly, they tend to be fragile. This one has muslin you can almost read a book through! So I always do a full float on vintage tops. That is, I do not attach the top to any leaders. I load the back and backing and then lay down the top, smoothing it out and basting the edges down. That way, the top gets no undue pressure from stretching.

And often the individual blocks act independently. That yellow plaid butterfly appears to be lifting off the quilt. Luckily, tops of this era were traditionally quilted in loose, open designs. The meandering loops work perfectly here to ease in the fullness of the block. (Besides, I think it looks like the dizzying flight path of a butterfly.)

And now, here's that yellow butterfly all settled down and resting on the quilt top.

Speaking of vintage, look at some of these classic fabrics!

Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps.

David Lloyd George

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Pink Square

The focus of this quilt comes right off the focus fabric – colorful butterflies. Between pieced and appliqued blocks are bright patches of prints...and one pink square. The maker of this piece asked me to quilt a butterfly into that 6 inch pink square.

Okay, so how do we do that? I started out with a sketch I made, inspired by one in Judi Madsen's book “Quilting Wide Open Spaces.” Then, I traced it onto vellum paper. The paper is slightly transparent, so I only drew one-half of the butterfly, and then flipped the vellum to trace the other half. Whee! Instant symmetry!

Then I go to my DSM, and remove the thread and the bobbin. I set my machine for a rather long stitch length, because the design is relatively simple. More detail would require a short stitch length. Now, stitch through the paper on all the lines. When you are ready to use this as a stencil, make sure to turn the vellum over. Now, the little “bursts” from the needle holes are on the top, and they will “tickle” the chalk dust out of the Pounce Pad.

By the way, you do not “pounce” a Pounce Pad. Rather, you brush the pad across the stencil. How many times you need to brush over the stencil will depend upon how well you can see the dots. This pink fabric should take minimal brushing.

Oh, but the pattern did not show well in the photo, so I took my trusty school chalk and played Dot-to-Dot! Now, I have something that is super easy to remove with a moist scrap of fabric, and super easy to see.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

He's a Humdinger!

This piece is a different Toni Whitney design than I have quilted before. Up until now, it has all been animals with fur; Elk, Bear, Wolf. I have a dog and her fur shows me how the stitches should lie around the eyes, face and body to simulate fur growth.

But, this is my first bird, and he is a stunner! The colors just ring with life!

So, the first thing I did was go to my trusted Google image search and typed in hummingbirds. Wow, a plethora of pretty birds! A closeup of a hummer's head gave me the look of the feathers as they go over the bird's forehead. I was pretty sure I could create the look of real feathers on the wings and tail.

Then, another search for flower closeups. I wanted to see how the flower's veining looked. Sigh, what did I ever do before Google search?!!!

And, of course, the background fill just had to be...wait for it...feathers!

Believe in yourself and all that you are.
Know that there is something inside you

that is greater than any obstacle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mrs. Lincoln's Sampler

What a beautiful piece! But, believe me, it was a challenge! Those blocks are 5 inches square exactly. There are 49 of them, alternating applique blocks with pieced blocks. And, most of the pieced versions are made up of lots of one-inch half square triangles! This must have taken a long time to accomplish.

Obviously, the tiny spaces in the backgrounds of the applique blocks had to be filled with a small, simple version of McTavishing. But, what about all those one-inch half square triangles?

I finally decided, after lots of sketching on top of printed photos of the blocks, to quilt down the background fabrics to let the colored fabrics pop up, just like they do in the applique blocks. I only quilted on the colored fabrics when the pieces were large and required it.

I used a combination of ribbon candy, Kim's loopy thang (no misspelling, that's what she calls it!), and occasionally a four- or 8- petal flower. I kept continuity by using ribbon candy in the border, matching the thread color.

Forget all the reasons why it won't work

and believe the one reason why it will!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Applique Quilt

I find the most difficult piece to determine a quilt plan for is the applique quilt. First of all, I've never been good at the outline stitch that everyone thinks must surround each and every applique piece. Actually, very few quilters are good at it. In my humble opinion, you should never see this stitch. You should only see the effect of this stitch. That is, the outline stitch should cause the applique piece to appear to rise up and sit atop the quilt.

Too often I see quilts where the outline stitch has occasionally crept up onto the applique fabric. This is not a good look, and if it were me, I would have to stop, pick it out and stitch it again. Wow, that's not your average picking job either, because the stitches are usually very tiny.

So, I always suggest filling the background with a dense fill that comes up close to the applique pieces instead of outlining. But, what kind of dense fill? McTavishing (with it's many variations) is an awesome choice. You can sweep it's many tendrils into the space between the applique for a very good look.

But, what else will work? Let's look at a few other fills.

This continuous curl works well on this House and Fruit Tree quilt, don't you think? The background areas are not too tight to fit the curls in. However, some applique quilts have very tiny background spaces, and this might not work for them.

If you look at this design closely, you will see the secret to it. It is not just one curl after another, that would look too static. Instead, it curls off in one direction, backtracks and then goes off in another direction. That keeps the design dancing!

Perfect backtracking is not necessary for this design, and that actually adds to the happiness of its design.

This is the clam shell version of McTavishing. It worked very well to get into tiny little spaces.

Of course, pebbles can do a good job filling areas and I like it with the stipple to set a space apart.

This is called Swirl Doodle Fill (I think it was designed by Karen Marchetti...?) and I love it! The soft S shapes can fill in the teeniest spaces. And, it is fairly quick to do. So, go out there and try a new fill pattern!!!

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
                                                                               Maya Angelou

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quilt Show!

Here are a few pics from my guild's 18th annual quilt show, held last week

This is by Leslie Peacock and it received the most Viewer's Choice votes. This has been shown on this blog previously.

An original art quilt by Bobbie Smith.

Sandy Davidson created a buffalo portrait quilt.

A colorful piece by Ruth Fulton.

Another colorful piece, a New York Beauty variation by Mary Dixon.

This Colonial Sampler has been given new life with new borders by Maureen Pastika. Here's the original, photographed and attached to the label. It hardly had any quilting at all to begin with.

Another great show. Don't you just LOVE quilt shows?!!!!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Do You Kaffe?

Of course I mean, do you use fabrics by the designer Kaffe Fassett? Wildly colorful and full of organic patterns, his fabrics look best randomly combined, even though the look is rather busy (ya think?!). A happier quilt would be hard to find.

But, how does the quilter quilt on such a busy canvas? At first I figured to meander it. But, the fabrics are full of circle shapes and so I chose to cover the piece with spirals, the most ancient of designs. Cavemen used spirals on rock walls to express the eternity of life.

I matched the thread color to the orange Grunge fabric of the backing. A less dynamic color of thread would have been lost. I'm actually surprised that the quilting shows up as well as it does in the photos.

Well, I'm off this morning for my guild's annual show in our little town of barely 2,000. Hopefully, pictures to follow!