Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!!!

Wishing you all the best of holidays with much joy and love....and a Happy 2011!
See you in January, everyone.....

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Back Pages...In Quilts

Not philosophical brilliance as penned by the great Bob Dylan, but more like A Brief History of My Quilt Life as seen on the walls of my sister's house in San Diego.

I was down there all week helping her recover from major surgery (she's doing fine) and realized that she has a complete cross-section of my quilt life on her walls. "They always look better in my house," she tells me.. ;-)
So I thought I'd give you a tour....I just went from room to room snapping pictures.

Here is the convalescent with my nephew Paul. Behind her is an experimental garden scene from 2004. I never finished it as I could not figure out how to...but she rescued it from my UFO pile and I am glad she did. My favorite part is the knitting I did for the dirt!
Here is a better shot of it...

I tried so many different techniques here that I will not bore you with them. But I did like that knitting.
But let's go back further...

"For Cadfael", 1997. I was reading the entire 20 novel series then and was mentally in Shrewsbury all the time. This raw-edged applique collage was my version of Cadfael's garden going down to the river.

This technique had kind of morphed into stained glass quilting around the same time. I made several of these very large angel themed quilts.

"Take Heart" was for my sister when we needed some cheering up. I was going through an extended Louis Comfort Tiffany phase at the time.

Meanwhile, one of Mary's sons, Andy (the subject of last year's "Love by the Moon" adventure) got briefly interested in sewing when he came to visit, so he made the quilt below...with no help from me except for free access to my stash and machine. He was about 12 at the time.

This is about 30" x 30". Is it not great??
Andy asked me to make a portrait of his bird around then too so I did.

Silver lives up above the lizard's cage now.

I had a few more large landscapes in me in the late 1990's...."Foliage 4" was my fourth attempt at fall leaves and I tried to give it an arty "I'm making a series" name. (I don't do that anymore.)
Mary was up visiting and saw that I had the quilt stored and she just wanted it. So it is on long term loan to her.

It does look nice there I think.

When she was getting married to her current husband Geoff, I decided to make him a "welcome to the family" quilt to give him comfort for when all of us new in-laws began to drive him crazy. But he put it on the wall instead....I wish he hadn't. After 10 years of us he could have definitely used some comfort!

It's behind the frame above their bed and not tucking someone cozily in, which is a shame.
It did mark the beginning of my move to making very simple bed quilts, almost one-patches. In this one I was inspired by that great white birch bark fabric.

Along came their daughter Qwen, so I made a quilt for her too.

Crazy quilting was just getting rolling for me then, in 2001. Qwennie here is 9 already!

Later I made her a portrait of her mom for her room.

Embellished prints had begun....

I've held onto my large crazy quilts since then except for one, which again is on loan to Mary because she thinks it would be better for her to enjoy it than for me to store it.

She has always loved this one and, while there are things I like about it, there are more that I don't. So I didn't mind sending it off.
It turns out that what she REALLY loves, now that she can see them, are the beads that belonged to our mom that were her favorite things to play with when Mom let her sort her jewelry. The necklace had broken long ago and I saved it, then used part of it here. I had no idea those beads meant so much to Mary but she says every time she looks at this quilt now it makes her really happy.

Well, my sister makes me happy. So I commemorated our friendship in a piece for her 50th birthday.

"Sisters Scrapbook Page" is one of the projects in my soon-to-be-released book!
Hopefully readers will be inspired to commemorate their own special relationships too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Home Portrait for Meg...Finished!

I can't wait for Meg to get this in the mail on Monday!

It was so much fun adding the "weather" to this piece. I plan on developing this whole concept of home portraits more fully over the next year, teaching it too. (Stay tuned....)

A detail.....

The flurries of snow actually act as a secondary frame--there is another across the lower left corner. They each cover a part of the photograph that would have been difficult to augment with stitching or just wasn't that visually "necessary" to show anyway.

This measures 12" X 15".
Gosh it was fun to do!

Now I have a couple of quick Christmas stockings to whip up...a niece lost her Christmas box during her last move, you see......

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bars and Stripes...Finished!

This quilt is finished and now at work keeping me warm at night on my bed!

Many times I have made a throw quilt by quilting a pieced top onto polar fleece. It is so easy and I love the fuzzy-on-one-side, cool-and-smooth-on-the-other-side nature of these quilts. I had never tried it with a full sized bed quilt before, though, so I used a microfleece blanket (thinner than polar fleece) from my local BiMart in Washougal. This worked out well indeed.

Basting was easy--I just used safety pins. Quilting was easy--just straight lines along the bar panels. Plus the quilt "sandwich's" minimal bulk allowed me to work this very large quilt through my Juki with no wrestling matches.

Maybe I should call this an Open Faced Quilt Sandwich!

Anyway, as to the finishing...wait til you see how quick that was.
All in all, as Borat would say, this was a "Great Success!"

First though, have a look at Bars and Stripes' predecessors....

This was actually my second ever crazy quilt, made in 1999. It is all cotton (I didn't have anything but in those days) with cotton batting and backing, and you can still see the influence of all the strip piecing I was doing then in these blocks. I free-motion spiral-quilted it for a neighbor's daughter, who was going off to college.
The bars are actually made of blocks.

This quilt also alternates bars of plain fabric with crazy pieced ones. This time some of the CQ bars are composed of blocks, and others are long pieced bars on a foundation.
This one, made of all silk, was quilted in the ditch between the blocks and along the bars, but not around the individual pieces. My sister-in-law has it.

For my quilt, I wanted to keep the quilting minimal, but have it show just a little bit. Plus I wanted to experiment with using #8 perle silk as my quilting thread.

As long as I went slowly, my Juki could handle the heavy thread just fine. I used a size 110 Jeans needle, a free machine foot, and the feed dogs UP.

One of those recessed sewing machine tables would have been nice, but we make do!
In this picture you can see I switched machines to apply that lace (using a zigzag, which my Juki doesn't have). I had put the quilt on the bed and decided that a little more lace needed to be on there.
Quilts don't live their lives on design walls, after all. Seeing it in situ showed me what adjustments I needed to make.

Even though I love my Bias Tape Maker from Simplicity, I still didn't feel like making a traditional binding for this large quilt, which is somewhere between a Queen and a King in size.
Then the very forgiving nature of the microfleece gave me an idea.....

It doesn't fray.
Plus, there was no exposed batting edge that needed covering--so no binding was required at all. I just had to cover the edge of the quilt top, really. So I sewed on rick rack! This attached the two layers to each other around the perimeter of the quilt as well.

First I zigzagged down the center of the rick rack with a narrow clear thread.
Then I made a second line of stitching, this time using just the straight stitch on my machine, to secure the tops of the V's in the rickrack to the quilt top.
It was the easiest "binding" I ever made, and I love the way it looks on the bed.

It is just so cozy, draped over a down comforter.
I still need to make some pillows, including the crumb-pieced one from earlier this fall.

But right now I want to get back to Meg's Home Portrait....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Home Portrait for Meg...progress

I'm enjoying creating my little snowstorm for Meg's home portrait!
I've prepared this small piece (it is about 12" X 14") for lots of handwork while I am on the road this week.

I used some Mickey Lawler SkyDye fabric in the frame to suggest a pale winter sunrise...had to get a smidgen of warm color in there. Mickey sure knows her skies!
There is lots more tree embroidery to do, and the house embroidery needs refining...but what I am most looking forward to working on are all the little snowflakes and beading to come...

Back next week. This should be finished by then....happy stitching to you all!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"I Love You Truly"

It is a little early to be thinking about Valentine's Day, but I was so excited about my heart quilt project being published on the website of the American Quilters' Society....that I had to tell you about it now. ;-)

"I love You Truly"
25" X 25" 2010

This collage quilt uses vintage quilt blocks, a vintage hankie, applique lettering, beading, and embroidery....all tricks of the crazy quilt trade.
I was asked to create this for an article for their print magazine with complete instructions and so I did, last June. But you know me, I am heavy on the pictures! My finished article was too long for their use in print, but they put the whole thing the way I wrote it--after their smart editing and beautiful formatting, of course--in a PDF file on their website, free to everyone. (You don't have to be a member or subscriber to download it.)

Here is a detail peek:

If you wish to download the PDF with complete instructions for this project, look on AQS's homepage here. It is second from the right in the top row.

I only wish I had been brave enough to put this in the center of the heart:
"Kiss Me You Fool!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home Portrait for Meg

I am definitely flitting between genres at an accelerated pace these days!

Putting aside my investigations into the delights of my Go! cutter and other new tools for the moment, I'm making a portrait of one of my friend's homes. This is the picture she wants, and it printed up beautifully on the silk crepe de chine I got from Out of My Mind Prints.

Yes, that is a hoop...I don't normally use one but for the fine stitching required (as the scale is so small), a hoop will help me stitch in an even straight line.

I wrote about creating "place portraits" in the recent issue of CQMagOnline. You can read it here.

I'm looking forward to working on this one...and it matches the weather outside too. ;-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

AccuQuilt's Go Cutter at work...

I am the lucky new owner of AccuQuilt's Go! fabric cutter. It uses an ingenious design developed by the president of the company, who is also an engineer, to accurately cut your fabric in shapes determined by the dies you use in the machine. It is not just turn a crank to run fabric through the machine. You can cut multiple layers at once too.

Here's a link to learn more about it.

I plan on making several service quilts over Christmas and will be putting the Go! to hard use then. But in the meantime I put it to the test to try cutting some 1 1/2" velvet strips with it. Velvet as we know is incorrigibly badly behaved in general. I wrote about how to tame this animal for CQMagOnline here. But velvet bias tape? That was way beyond me...

Until I put my Go! to work, teamed up with its new best friend in my sewing room, Simplicity's electric Bias Tape Maker. The results just thrilled me......

A strip of silk/rayon velvet awaits its transformation, from a longish scrap... these perfect strips! How cool is that?
I cut some cotton velveteen too, and then ran both fabric strips through the bias tape maker.

This picture shows me pulling a strip of velveteen through the folding tip, past that silver heating element. While the machine is actually running, the heating element has a safety case that snaps into place so you can't burn your fingers. A little electric motor movers the fabric through...but with velveteen and velvet both, I tugged it as well because it is so thick. This worked fine.

And would you look at that? The velvet is below, the velveteen above. There is no way on God's green earth I could have gotten such straight bias tape (without squished edges) out of that velvet with a rotary cutter, ruler, and iron.

So, what was I going to do with this?
A little project for a friend that is doubling as a warm up for my next quilt, after Bars and Stripes is done. If I can wait that long. I am loving these fabrics!!!

This is 18" X 18" and it is going to be a pillow. I love the velvet with the flannel and wool...and you know it is impossible for me not to include flowers somewhere, somehow...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bars and Stripes...Top Pieced

I finally was able to piece together my bars and stripes panels for my first bed quilt in about 10 years.
This was more straight seam sewing than I can remember doing all at one time!

I used a lot of trim in this quilt...I can't ignore the possibilities for texture in any project, even bed quilts.

The rick rack is from Moda and the velvet ribbon/gimp is from Simplicity...

Kerry Murphy kindly sent me the velvet pink ribbon that is behind the wide lace on the right; both laces got a dunking in potassium permanganate to give them that light gold tint...and the jacquard woven ribbon is from Simplicity, too (JoAnn's.)

I can't get a complete overall shot because my design wall space isn't large enough!
But here's how it looks up there now. (Ignore the mess in the foreground.)

You can see I didn't quite have enough of the wide lace so I just patched in some others. Crazy quilts are not about perfection! If this was in a competition it would matter, but on my bed it sure won't.

I bought some really pretty hand-dyed perle cotton from Art Fabrik at Festival and I am just wondering if I can get my Juki to quilt with it. I was told a large eyed jeans or topstitch needle can handle it, if I go slowly.
I decided to quilt this onto a fleece blanket, avoiding the batting/backing sandwich ordeal. Besides, I love quilts that are smooth on the top and cozy on the back. That's what is up next....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A "Thanks" to Baby Lock

Almost all of the cash prizes awarded at the International Quilt Festival show are sponsored by different companies in the quilt business. It is a very lovely thing for them to do. My category, Embellished Quilts, was sponsored by Baby Lock, so I decided to send them a tangible thank you for my prize money.

I've had my Baby Lock Embellisher for a few years and I adore working with it. So I decided to use it in my little "Thanks" quilt I made for them.

After appliqueing the lettering on by hand (the word is about 7" across), I began needle felting a background for the frame that would go around it. That is lace and then 4mm silk ribbon.

More silk ribbon going on. The RiverSilks ribbon works great because it is sturdy. The needlepunching scrunches it up, but doesn't shred it.

I cut out some wool leaves and needlepunched them onto the frame background. Those three large leaves are made from wool roving and knitting ribbon punched onto green flannel.

You knew there were going to be flowers!
The white daisies started out as trim from Simplicity.

A few more details and the center was done. But I needed to set this in a larger background.

I used a doily over a foundation of green dupioni silk for the background..this quilt measures about 14" X 14" completed.
One new thing I tried was using lace for the binding. I had some that was the right width and fiber, but it was off-white. A quick trip to the microwave in a baggie filled with some old Procion dyes and the proper mordant...and I had my dark green lace.

I hope the folks at Baby Lock will know how much I appreciate their participation in Quilt Festival. The quilting industry truly is made up of the nicest people.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vintage Quilts from Houston

There are so many great vendors of antique quilts at the International Quilt Association Festival in Houston. And they let you take pictures, too!

I love the graphic quality of these humble old crazy quilts...

Isn't this so great?

That black diamond shape looks a little familiar...this got me thinking about finishing up that Vintage CQ of mine.

But how about this for a cool shaped block?

I'd really like to make this one day.

A quilt like this next one inspired a modern quiltmaker you may have heard of...

Love it, love it, love it!

Here's a detail. Look how the quiltmaker buttonholed the edge of the quilt, too...

This is a detail from one of Kaffe Fassett's quilts that was part of his special exhibit in Houston this year. It looks like he simplified the piecing quite a bit from the antique one. In fact, I think these are strips made of diamond and triangle shapes, with those little black fans appliqued on after the fact. So there really aren't any "Y" seams here, it just looks like it.
But this is just a guess...or at least how I might do it.

Can't get enough of these fans...

There are never enough variations on a fan!

And never enough ways to stitch on a quilt, either.

This quiltmaker sure loved embroidery.

Pretty darn nice....

Ms. H. E. Merrill--there's her name!--snuck in some velvet applique while she was at it, too.

With lots of quilting of course.

These quilts are so was a treat to get to see them.