23 July, 2015

All the Doilies



These doilies were made by the most surprising of people. My Dad. My big, Eastern European, house building dad. He had meaty hands, ones I never would have guessed were capable of such delicate work.

I have the ones he made and gifted when he was going through chemo five years ago. And recently, while cleaning out my Mom's house in anticipation of a move, we came across a whole pile of much more delicate ones. They graced our living room furniture when that was the style, but they'd sat in a closet for years since. So we split them among the family and I have this collection.

It will be time to do something with these because I don't exactly have a doily on the sofa back kind of a style.



In the meantime, I wrote about my Dad's doilies in the latest issue of Uppercase Magazine. This particular issue has postage and lace as a theme. It truly is a pretty issue. Well, they all are! But this one feels nostalgic and cozy while still being visually invigorating.

If you have any links or suggestions on reusing/upcycling the doilies, please post and share.

20 July, 2015

All the Labels

At one point I used to be great about labelling my quilts. I planned and plotted my fancy label, carefully lettering and hand stitching it on. Then I got busier, faced deadlines and snotty noses, and frankly, got lazy. It is time to rectify the situation. I have a lot of quilts missing labels. Or, at most, they only have a name tag on them.



The label of the quilt needs to serve in place of you, the blog post, or the Instagram hashtag. If you've made the quilt well it could outlive you. If it is a gift it could travel to places you couldn't have imagined. The label should allow the story to move with the quilt.

What do you include on the label? Here are the basics I always have:

Quilt Name
Brief description of the why/how of the quilt. That is, who is it for? Why did you make it? Was it inspired by anything in particular?
Pattern credit or original design.
Materials in the quilt - batting and fabric and thread. (Are they 100% cotton or otherwise? Also brand of batting.)
Date the quilt was completed.
My name.

It may seem like a lot, but it isn't too bad. This is what one example looks like.

My preference is to print my label out on the special fabric that can go through the printer. That way I can have it smaller. At one point I used to print the label out on paper and trace it. That was a lot of work! Sometimes it is quick and easy, some notes on a piece of fabric and sewn down. My favourite product for labels is Printed Treasures. It isn't cheap, but I can get 3-4 labels on a sheet, making it more economical. And I've learned, the label looks better if you put it on before you wash the quilt because the Printed Treasures fabric shrinks differently than my quilts.



One thing I was taught early on in my career is to sign my quilts in a secret spot. This is especially a good idea when you are gifting a quilt. Labels can be removed and quilts stolen. For family in nursing homes, kids in dorms or camp, or anywhere there is common access having a secret little spot for a label is a way to identify the quilt if the label gets removed. I've seen people actually make their label before quilting and it is a permanent part of the quilt. Even silkscreening a panel with it and sewing it into the backing! If that isn't your speed, simple sign your name on the inside of the binding. Be consistent on which corner you do it, like lower left. If a label ever gets removed and ownership is contested you can undo a few stitches and your name is visible.

When I updated my goals the other day I should have added 'Making Labels for All the Quilts' to the list. Definitely need that on the list.

16 July, 2015

Circle Lattice Update


Wow, three blocks done. I'm pretty wowed myself. Even more amazing, I'm not bored with this block yet. Not at all. Considering the intensity of my time with it I find that surprising.

When I started with this particular block - from Carolyn Friedlander's amazing book Savor Each Stitch - I thought I would make one block. It was the one pattern from the book I was desperate to make right away. It was like Carolyn saw into my brain for the exact appliqué pattern I'd always wanted to make. One block was great, but I knew I couldn't stop there, the finished quilt would be far too small.

...
I should clarify that one of the reasons I always make larger quilts is that my husband really doesn't like quilts on a wall. I would rather have the opportunity to cuddle with a quilt then make a small one that languishes in a pile.
...



So now I am on to the 4th block. The fabrics for all the other blocks were easy decisions. I loved the contrast of the NYC print with the colours and patterns of the others. But I really hemmed and hawed on what to do here. Yellow seemed like a good choice, but I didn't have enough of any one print that I loved to use. Then I remembered some Stendig calendar fabric I picked up at QuiltCon. Just a little pop of yellow and much more subtle contrast. It is perfect. The calendar fabric, by Kokka, is a slightly heavier weight so it had to be the background, but that's totally fine.

Summer evenings, the rest of Le Tour, and car rides ahead of me. I will definitely be savouring each stitch as this last block comes together.

13 July, 2015

Quilts Under Construction - 2Q 2015


Time for the quarterly reality check. Let's look at the Quilts Under Construction list. Things have moved around a bit, although there weren't many quilt finishes.

I've decided to make one fundamental change to this list. If blocks are being used for class samples they are no longer counted. I will make and remake blocks many times in the course of teaching. As they are for demo purposes and not necessarily intended to be a finished quilt, I don't think it is right to include them in this particular list. Of course, that only took 2 things off the list... Hmm. I wonder if I wasn't counting them all before and I just cleaned that up? Oh well.

There was steady work on a number of quilts while others just sat and sat there. I think it might be time to make a booking on a long arm to get a few of those tops done. Or teach my kids to baste because that is the part I hate the most.

Quilt Tops Ready for Quilting

1. Cosmos Blocks
2. Improv Sampler
3. Checkerboard from Sunday Morning Quilts
4. Slaveship Quilt 
5. The Evil Genius' Triangle Quilt
7. Giant Hexagons
8. Lilac Lovely - hanging at My Sewing Room as a sample for my Improv Curves class.
9. Cirrus Solids Pinwheel top
10. Solid Sunday Morning
11. Oh Canada Quilt in Red

Quilts Being Quilted

12. Low Volume Circles - Ugh, hand quilting holding me up.
13. Antonio's Quilt - So close, yet I don't finish it.
14. Smooch -

Waiting for Binding

Nothing in this pile except for a few Just One Slab quilts for final donation.

Blocks and Process

15. Mid Mod Bee - Wishing for a single day or two this summer to get it done. I know what I want to do...
16. Hand Pieced Diamonds - Is it crazy that I feel the whole top needs to be hand pieced together?
17. More Cosmic Burst blocks
18. Name quilt for my daughter - I think this become a backing more than anything...
19. Chandelier quilt - requires some unsewing and I'm just not motivated to do this.
20. Liberty Circles
21. Respite - a project started in a Bill Kerr design workshop
22. Pieced Stars - in recent weeks I've made a few more stars. Crazy precision piecing kick I've been on.
23. The Water Quilt
24. Low Volume Shoeman's Puzzle/Slab blocks - This one has been on my mind lately. Made more low volume slabs while teaching and they could be added. Just need to make more templates.
25. A values quilt in neutrals - I know I said I wasn't counting class blocks, but I now have enough blocks to turn this into a quilt. Maybe very soon.
26. Green/Yellow/Orange Improv blocks  - Part of these are being kept as class samples, but a big chunk of them are now turning into a quilt for my son.
27. Edges/Studio Stash Play
28. Beach Grass Take 2
29. Y2K quilt - Up to 16 rows now. Out of 50.
30. Another leaders and enders project, intended to be like Up, Up, and Away from Sunday Morning Quilts
31. Round and Round blocks - Up to 16 of these now.
32. Snippets on Dates - These are coming together. When I am in the mood for the mess again I will finish it. So, so close.
33. Circle Lattice - Finished three blocks now, and started the fourth.
34. Leftovers from Modern Paris - These may come into play soon as the couple I made the quilt for are now expecting a baby.
35. Gee's Bend inspired blocks after my trip to Alabama - I made up the small blocks into 1 large block, but now I think it needs more.
36. Paperless paper piecing block from my class with Cristy Flincher. I think it needs to be the start of a medallion quilt.
37. The girls' clothes turned into a quilt with the Gee's Bend quilters.
38. Improv work with Cotton and Steel Fabrics that I started for my CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics class.
39. Blue Improv - pulled out some class sample I've used over the years and played with them for CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics. Now I think I have a plan for them.
40. The X-Plus blocks I used in the Creative Live Quilting with Low Volume Fabrics class.
41. A whole bunch of pinwheels that I'm playing with. Started as prep for my CreativeLive Pinwheel Play class.

Finished

Precious - an all voile quilt
A Vintage Spin quilt that hasn't been gifted yet, so I can't share it.

Two magazine projects are now published, but I've only shared one so far.
Argyle (Version I and II)
Watch for the other one to be posted in the next week or two. Both are in the latest issue of Modern Patchwork.

Plus, I made some clothes. A dress, 3 Lindens, 2 skirts for my girls.

06 July, 2015

2015 Goals - 2Q Check-In



Time to stop, look, and listen. Summer vacation started for the kids. I'm trying to more or less take July off to be with the family and rest a little myself (it isn't working, I feel antsy). I do like this quarterly check-in though, keeps me on track. See my 1Q check-in here.

1. Start, and possibly complete, the next two quilts in my Alberta series.

I actually had the opportunity to test a concept for my first one planned. Working with a local shop, My Sewing Room, I designed the background for their Row by Row Experience. We went with a Prairie sky/landscape and this is exactly what I want to do for my next quilt in this series. 

2. Record at least 1 new online class or set of classes.

Finished this last quarter! My CreativeLive classes are available and so much fun. 
Improv Quilting Basics
Quilting With Low-Volume Fabrics
Translating Inspiration in Quilting
Playing With Pinwheels in Quilting

Oh, and how convenient. I see that they are on sale right now. Each class is only $20!

3. Launch 2 more print patterns.

The final design for the Sewing Machine Quilt is being finished. I'm so close with this one. And then my designer got married. I use a graphic designer for the layout and her wedding took precedence. Hopefully soon...

4. Attend 1-2 quilting retreats as a guest and not a teacher.

Had to put aside the one I really wanted to go to. At this point I would settle for a guild sew day.

5. Pick up 3 new freelance clients.

At the last check-in I mentioned that I would be evaluating this. Well, I did. And I've decided not to actively seek out new clients. Part of this was management of my time, especially when it comes to family. Part of it was that we decided to not keep our babysitter, changing the time I did have available. I am still freelancing - check me out in Modern Patchwork and American Quilt Retailer on a regular basis - just not activity pursuing new publications right now.

6. Celebrate the launch of You Inspire Me to Quilt, because I never did that for A Month of Sundays and I missed that.

And I didn't do this. Is it too late? I turned 40 right when the book came out and my husband threw me a big surprise party. It seemed cocky to turn around and have another party right away.

7. Explore print and pattern making through regular sketching, play, and learning design programs.

This is so much fun. I'm sketching and playing all the time. And I've started, just started, some Illustrator classes. Still so much more work to do. But exploring this even more is one of my summer goals.

8. Lose 20 pounds. Actually, closer to 25 if we count the holiday weight. I lost 20 pounds last year and want to continue on the road to health.

So I did an 8 week exercise program on Fitness Blender. Physically, I feel great. I noticed a difference in my flexibility, endurance, and strength. I could see changes in my body shape. But I did not lose a single pound. Muscle weighs more than fat, so there is that. But it also shows me that what I eat matters so much. I wasn't bad in what I eat, but clearly there needs to be bigger changes. The good thing about summer is that it is generally too hot to bake so cookies are out. But then there are s'mores. I also found out recently that I am anemic, it can impact weight, but not really.  My exercise has lagged in the last 2 weeks, so I am trying to get back on that. Thank goodness for lazy mornings by the kids.

9. Find an agent/publisher for the children's books I wrote.

Working on this, actively. But nothing to report yet.

10, Spend at least 1-2 hours a week working on one, any one, of the outstanding Quilts Under Construction. Focused, steady progress should move some of those through the list, even when I'm starting new quilts all the time.

It doesn't happen every week, but it is happening. And I've really only started one quilt this quarter. That being said, I didn't finish many. But the list is shifting and quilts are moving around.

On top of all this I have also submitted the proposal for a new book. Fingers and toes crossed that I will have word so that I can be starting it by the time the girls go back to school. On top of teaching, both locally and booking some travel for the fall, things are not quiet at all. Not to mention the household organization I've undertaking via the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

With the babysitter gone I am back to my early mornings alone. I wake up ready to go, but often paralyzed by all the things I want to do before the kids wake up. I've realized that the exercising can be done when they are awake, so I try to get my writing and pure creative work done while they still sleep. That is, when we are home! There have already been camping trips and visits to help my mom move. But on those regular home days it becomes a flexible combination of creativity, mothering, friendship, and summer fun. Such is my life, and I'm certainly not complaining!

02 July, 2015

Argyle I and II


Argyle
12'' x 12'' blocks

It isn't often that I make a quilt twice. Beyond pattern testing, I have to really, really like the pattern to make it twice. Good thing this is my own pattern!

Introducing Argyle. Appropriately named, don't you think? I was searching for ideas for a quilt for my nephew (see below). At first I was just searching for string quilts or X quilts or any number of things. Then my Hubby suggested an Argyle quilt. I didn't like any of the patterns I found, none were what I had in mind, so I made up my own.

It is one of those techniques that involves a lot of cutting, sewing, then cutting apart before sewing back together again. Oh wait, isn't that all of quilting?



The original quilt resides with my awesome nephew. The second quilt is now published, with the pattern, in the latest issue of Modern Patchwork. The original is 72'' by 96'', a very generous twin size. The one in Modern Patchwork is 72'' by 72''. (Just make more or less blocks to size up or down.)

Colours vary slightly between the two quilts. The original one is bolder, with a palette of blues, reds, oranges, and yellows chosen by my nephew. Some of the fabrics are from his baby quilt! To achieve the argyle effect you need the strips to be a dark, then you need mediums and lights. So I went to black and white fabrics for the mediums and white or tone on tone for the lights.



In the Modern Patchwork version I started with a bundle of fabric from Windham, the Modern Country line from Elizabeth Kinch. To this I added some stashed fabrics. Of note, there is some Karen Lewis Textiles screen prints, Carolyn Friedlander, Monica Solorio Snow, and Lu Summers. The white in this quilt is an Essex Linen. Overall, this is a softer quilt, more subtle in its design.

Both quilts were quilted with a squared off and overlapping meander. The original was done on a long arm and the second one on my domestic Bernina. Both were quilted with Aurifil 2600.

In addition to this quilt, I have another one plus an article on charity quilts in this issue of Modern Patchwork. With an extra copy of the magazine on my table I'm happy to give one away. On Monday I will pick a winner from the subscribers to my newsletter. Subscribe up top if you haven't already.

25 June, 2015

A Year of Talking Quilts - First Cuts




There are generally two camps when it comes to cutting fabric - those that are nervous to do it and those that can't wait.

The nervous ones of us are worried about wrecking the fabric. Worse than that, we've put the fabric on such a high pedestal that a rotary cutter is far, far beneath it. In that case, the fabric is so awesome it can't be cut.

We've all been that quilter at least once.

Most of the time, however, we can gleefully cut up our fabric, excited at what is to come. Cutting represents the first real hands-on step of making. Before we cut it's all been scheming and dreaming. Before fabric is cut it only represents quilt potential.

That, by the way, is precisely why we should cut it. Fabric isn't a stock or money in the bank. It's value only comes from being used. Admiring it on the shelf lets you know that there is more pretty in the world, but actually using the fabric for what it was intended for, gives it true value and purpose.



Just like there are two camps when it comes to fabric I find that there are two types of cutters - those who cut every single piece of fabric out before they sew a stitch and those who cut as they go.

The first group are generally following patterns with very specific instructions. Indeed, patterns are almost always written with cutting instructions first. Gets this bit out of the way so you can get to the real business of sewing. But if you make a mistake and don't have extra fabric, then you need to cry or get creative. Or both.

The second group cut as they go. A little bit here, enough for a few blocks there. It is more stop and go, for sure. But it is really just another route to the same finish. If you are improvising, testing a concept, or unsure how many blocks you want to make, this is likely your chosen path. This route can both save and waste more fabric, depending on how much you cut and end up using.

Personally, I don't often cut everything first. When I am designing quilts for publication, this is when I do it. In that case I usually draft the pattern, check my math a million times, then cut everything. This effectively gets me testing my own pattern. If I have to, I will go back and make changes or cut more. But when I do cut first I am always surprised at how quickly it all comes together afterwards!

Because my true love is improv piecing, and often using scraps, it isn't often that I am spending a lot of time cutting and prepping for this kind of sewing. I might grab scraps and start, or cut a bit and play. After stopping and regrouping I will decide what more I need. Or if I even need more.

No matter what kind of quilter you are, there is something so satisfying about the sound the rotary cutter makes. Almost like the scrape of wet sugar on a plate, but uniquely its own. It is always the start of something good.



Since we're talking about cutting, I wanted to give you a few tips on successful cutting:

- Always have a sharp blade in your rotary cutter. If you are getting frustrated with your cutting, change your blade.

- Cut to the lines on your ruler, not your mat. (In fact, I have my mat flipped over so it is a soft grey, not that awful green).

- Before you make your first cut, and periodically as you cut, square up your fabric. Almost everyone tells you to line up your selvages, line up the ruler on the fold, then make a clean cut on the edge. Just make sure that when you line up your selvages the fabric is hanging straight. If it isn't then you need to shift the selvage edges right and left until it does.

- Make sure you close and lock your rotary cutter after every cut. Every. Single. Time. Even if you are the only one in your sewing space, please do it. I've seen too many injuries from open cutters. Better yet, invest in a retractable one.

- If you do not have the luxury of a cutting table, use your kitchen counter. Your back will thank you for the extra height. That is, unless you are short and it is more comfortable on a regular table.

- Never leave your cutting mat in direct sun or in a car. Then warp and will never go back in to shape.

- Replace your mat every few years, more or less depending on how often you are using it. Self healing only goes so far. But if you are cutting based on the lines on the ruler, not the mat, you can rotate and flip it to give it a longer life.

- This should go without saying, but pay attention to what you are doing when you are cutting. Trust me, my missing fingertip can explain to you why.

This is the fourth post in a year long series on all the steps of making a quilt. Musings and thoughts on the process.