Saturday, October 30, 2010

A reversal of fortunes

Have you ever.... carefully listed all the size pieces you need for a set of blocks, figured out which pieces need to be light, which dark, how many you need of each, got them all cut and then....

Realized you reversed the values and cut lights where you needed darks and darks where you needed lights?

Yep, did it. After finishing one set of star in star blocks (the light star on dark background) for Shakespeare in the Park, I figured out what I needed for the last set of blocks, the dark star on light background. I got everything cut for the inner star, then the outer star, then realized.... I had reversed the values for the outer star.

The worrisome thing is that I'm running low on the cream I'm using for the background, but the good thing is that the 40 cream squares I cut at 4 3/8 inches can be cut down to 3.5 inches, so I should be okay.

While I was cutting I noticed my rotary cutter was dragging a little. I replaced the blade and what a difference. I have to remember to replace/sharpen the blades more often.

At least it will be easier to recut the rest of the pieces today.

A couple of nights ago I got back to the thread work on the sample piece and added another couple of colors. I used some polyester machine embroidery thread with a nice sheen and it's really added to the depth of the piece. Instead of filling the open space with a tight filler, like I did on the first sample, I just added some small spirals and that fills it pretty nicely.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun comes in all sizes

The great thing about working on small projects is that you can see the progress so fast. That's especially nice when you use them as a break from larger projects – like the queen-size Shakespeare in the Park I'm working on.

Last night I trimmed up the rest of the Flying Geese and sewed a couple of sections together for my large star blocks. With a little luck tonight I can finish sewing together the large light on dark stars, and be ready to move on to the last batch of stars. This is going a lot smoother than I expected. For some reason I thought I had a lot more to do on this quilt.

More fun with the little stuff. I had decided my little lighthouses were too big to be inchies, so I made them two-inch squares instead – twosies? They are coming along pretty well, last night I added some thread scraps to make vegetation around them, and did some quilting on the background and added metallic thread for the light area. I think some more quilting and then some embellishments and they'll be done.

I promised a picture of the basted applique. This is the palm tree I'm working on, with one of the leaves basted on. It seems so much easier to me to turn under the edges a bit at a time along the basting lines. I know I'm getting smoother curves than I did when I tried to iron around freezer paper.

And I'm really having fun with this thread work. This started as a sample piece, quilted in the dark pink. Then I added pale yellow. Last night I added a pale blue machine embroidery thread with a nice sheen. I haven't decided what's next, but I'm thinking sparkles....

 More later.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitties and quilts

My Pepper cat is my quilting buddy, keeping me company in the studio and testing quilts for comfort as soon as I have two pieces sewn together. His best friend Phantom (aka Squirrel) only shows up if it's quiet and there's a nice sunbeam to nap in. She's the original scaredy-cat.

Yesterday I was putting some things away in the office and emptied a little box, which I dropped on the floor to collect for recycling. Within five minutes, Pepper had taken up residence – a 20 pound cat in a 10 pound box. He occupied the box on and off for the rest of the day. This morning I walked into the living room and Squirrel had claimed the box. It's a much better fit for her.

Another good evening in the studio last night. I got three of the large star blocks done for Shakespeare In the Park (SITP). My Flying Geese are turning out much better, though slightly oversized, this time. I'm doing a four at a time method explained on Connecting Threads site. They have a lot of nice tutorials on their site, as well as some cute free patterns.

I decided to revamp the rest of the little lighthouse figures I'd started a few days ago. They are a little too big for inchies, so I'm making them two inches square and will make brooches out of them. I'm starting to think in terms of inventory for sales on Tybee Island next year. I added a bit of fabric and fused them to the backing last night, should have something worth showing after tonight.

I'm still working on the hand applique, just one palm leaf to go. I started this to try out the basting method of needle turn applique. With this, you trace the entire design on the back of the background fabric. Then you roughly cut pieces of fabric for each applique piece, leaving lots of extra. One at a time, baste a piece, using a large needle and heavy thread. Then trim up around the shape. Then you cut a couple of stitches of the basting, tuck under the edges and start your applique. You take out a few stitches at a time and fold along the line created where the basting came out. It really does work, and I'm getting smoother lines than with freezer paper, etc.

There's a nice tutorial on it on the Tropical Applique blog.

I'm still experimenting with the multi-colored quilting/threadwork. One of the sample pieces I did at the quilt show was black, which I quilted with bright pink. It didn't show up as well as I'd hoped for the demo, but it is pretty. Last night I went back and added echo quilting with a pale yellow thread. Now it's starting to pop. Here's the start, there will be more to come.

More later!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some more thread work

I had so much fun with the threadwork I did on the sample piece that I decided to try a new project from the beginning. So yesterday I alternated working on my SITP blocks and working on a small floral applique piece with lots of threadwork.

I started with a simple background, then ironed fusible to some fabric. I freehand cut petals, leaves and stems for flowers, then fused them into place. Then I stitched the edges of the applique, using my Singer 115 handcrank sewing machine. I have this one set into a cabinet and it's my favorite for doing very precise stitching.

Then I layered it and started stitching, using different colors for different areas, but with at least three colors of stitching throughout. Then I did small curled stipples between all the motifs.

After it was finished, I used a light stroke of paint stick on the petals and leaves, then used a cotton swab to blur out the paint.

Final result, it's pretty, but not nearly as striking as the previous piece. The light colors get lost on the light background and the dark ones look kind of harsh. I also lost track on the spirals and they are kind of messy looking. And since I matched the paint color to the main colors of the petals and leaves it obscures the details in them. A contrasting color (or no paint) would have been better.

I haven't decided whether this one is done as is, or if I want to do a little more, maybe some watercolor pencils, or some beading to embellish the flowers. This won't be my last try with this technique.

In other efforts, I finished the inner stars for the cream on dark stars for SITP. Today I'll start a bunch of Flying Geese for the outer parts of the blocks. I hope I can get them a little more precise than the recent ones.

Lots to do today. More later.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sewing ADD?

I hate cold feet! What does this have to do with sewing? Last year I made sets of heatable corn bags for everyone in the family for Christmas. They're just like the rice bags except I fill them with feed corn from the farm supply store. I made a couple of sizes, a longer, narrower one that could drape around a neck, and a medium sized wide one perfect for warming the feet. The last couple of evenings have been pleasant, except that my feet got cold, and I cannot sleep with cold feet. So last night I pulled out one of the warmer bags, heated it in the microwave two minutes and tucked it at the bottom of my bed. Instant comfort and I was asleep in no time.

center of large stars for SITP
I had a very productive evening in the studio last night. I've been thinking about improvements and last night pulled out a swing-arm lamp with magnifier that I'd planned to use on my workbench. I set it up next to the machine I use all the time for piecing. Great!

I finally pulled out my Shakespeare in the Park (from Judy Martin's Creative Pattern Book) and figured out what I have and what I need to do to finish it. I'm doing it in scrappy blue, purple and pink, with a single cream background throughout.

This is such a gorgeous pattern, and I love the sense of motion. But it's not the easiest to put together, so I'm afraid I have some flying geese with their points cut off. But once it's put together, I don't think that will be noticeable. And, quite honestly, if I tried to go back and remake all those units, this quilt would never get done. Even if I had enough of the background fabric to redo it, which I don't.

So, I have all the Snail's Trail blocks done, and all the small star blocks, so just need 16 large star blocks (and all the assorted setting pieces).  Eight of the blocks are cream stars on dark, and I got five of the centers of those blocks done last night, with components for the rest of the eight centers ready to go. My new goal is to finish the eight light on dark blocks this weekend, then next weekend move on to the dark on light.

I played some, too (that's why it's sewing ADD), trying out some echo quilting and fills. A while back I wrote about seeing "hyper-quilting" on Patsy Thompson's site. While I was demonstrating at the quilt show, I did some simple free-motion in light thread on dark fabric. It came out pretty, so I decided to play with it. I cut off a small section and echo quilted the light with a bright pink. Then I came back and echoed again with spring green and did a filler stitch between the flowers, feathers, etc. Then, as a finishing touch, I brushed just a bit of color in with my new Shiva paint sticks. I think it's kind of gorgeous! Now I wish I hadn't cut the piece off, I could have done the whole piece this way and had something pretty impressive.

original quilting on back, with echo quilting and paint, front

Finally, I'm working on a little hand applique. In one of the magazines I picked up, they explained an applique technique where you baste the pieces on, using small stitches and heavy thread, then cut the stitches out and fold under along the stitching line. I wanted to see if I liked this technique better than the folding/gluing/pressing/paper template I've tried before – and I do! I'm getting much smoother curves and sharper points. I'll post more on this later.

Looking forward to a beautiful weekend. We need to get outside and do some work on the house (the joys of having a 100-year-old house) and I need to work on some of my organizing/decluttering projects, but I'm mostly looking forward to getting back into the studio.

So, time to get busy. More later!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Too much fun!

These little things could be addictive! I got back in the studio again last night and played with my inchies. I finished the first pair by trimming the excess pieced fabric, then fusing on a small randomly cut piece of fabric to break up the lines. Then I sewed on a few beads in coordinating colors.

I fused on a solid piece of fabric (black, for these) on the back, then hand-sewed on some fuzzy yard to trim the edges. I decided to make these into earrings, so I then sewed on some jump rings and attached the earring wires.

For the second batch, I went a little more detailed in the piecing. I sewed together strips of dark green, white and dark green to suggest the lines of a lighthouse, then cut the shapes from the strips. Then sewed on pieces for "sky" at the sides and grass at the bottom. Then I fused them to the backings, did a little free-motion quilting on the sky and grass, then trimmed off the excess. Then I sewed on some beads. Only problem here was I quilted off the edges, so when I trimmed I got loose threads. I haven't decided how I will finish these.

It's funny that sometimes I don't feel creative, other times I want to be creative but don't know what to work on. Then there are the times when I have so many things I want to do that I need eight arms – or a couple of clones. In breaks from inchies, I worked on plans for a star quilt I've been planning in my head for several years. And I'm thinking about improving the lighting and doing some organizing in my studio. And thinking about getting back to work on the Shakespeare in the Park I started last year. And getting ideas for an applique quilt. And more ideas for inchies. And...

I just hope this creative energy lasts long enough for me to get some of these things done!

More later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little creativity

After my quilting marathon for our show, I should be burnt out, but actually I'm eager to get back into the studio, just on a different scale. Instead of large quilts on a deadline, I'm in the mood for small items that I can play with.

Two inchies in progress, left, bases, center, and goofs, right
So, I'm going from a queen size quilt to .... inchies! I've been doing fabric postcards for a while, and have been intrigued by the question of what can you do with a one-inch work. I thought this would be a good time to find out.

So last night I pulled out a bin full of fun fabrics, and a drawer full of fiber stuff, and cut up some stiff interfacing into one-inch squares. My first effort was sewing two sets of four strips, then cutting them diagonally and swapping pieces, then sewing back together. But, oops! I didn't allow enough length for the seam and they were too small. Back into the bin to use for something else.

Fiber stuff to play with
Next was a simpler try, with three strips, made larger than my one-inch base. I fused them onto the bases on a diagonal, then pulled out some bits of fibers. For this one, I used threads I pulled from the edge of a scrap of pink lamé, and some threads that shredded off a new fat quarter when I washed it. I carefully laid the threads across the fabric base, then covered with a small piece of wash-away stabilizer. I quilted that down, using a metallic thread, then rinsed away the stabilizer.

I haven't decided what I will do next, some combination of embellishments, then put on a backing, and trim around the edges.

I can see why these little things can become addictive!
Fabric scraps to play with

More later.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What you learn from a quilt show

We've talked, on various email lists, about entering quilt shows. Some people say they don't want to be judged, that they make quilts for fun, others have had bad experiences entering shows. But if you are entering a show with a judge who knows what she's doing, you can learn something, even if it's only to confirm what you already know you should work on.

I'd entered quilts at another type of show before and got only a very brief judging sheet, but for our show, we got a little more in-depth feedback.

I entered 24 quilts in the High Cotton Quilt Show, three older ones for display only. So I got a stack of judging sheets back for the other 21. The evaluations were well done, satisfactory, needs improvement and N/A if it didn't apply. Each quilt got marks for general appearance, then quilt top construction, quilting and finishing, under workmanship, and fabric usage, color/value contrast and quilting design under design.

Looking through the stack, I had pretty consistently high marks in the design side, with mostly plus or satisfactory on workmanship – except finishing where I had the most needs improvement marks.

No real surprises there, I've always felt design is my strong point, and many of these quilts were made a couple of years ago when I hadn't learned as much about borders and bindings.

Entering quilt shows may not be for everyone, but I found it fun and enjoyed the compliments from the people attending.

I just discovered that the local paper has posted its Studio Statesboro with a nice piece on the show.

Enjoy! More later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quilt show brags

Lots and lots to report on the quilt show, but I have to leave for something for work soon, so just a quick recap on my quilts in the show.

I entered a total of 24 quilts, including my very first quilt, finished in 2004 (not for judging), and a number of art quilts. Four of the quilts were finished in the month leading up to the show, Vintage Bow Ties, Cool Jazz, Triple Star and Boxy Stars With Black.

I won three ribbons, second place in groups for Peacock Blues, third place in art quilts for Angel of the Garden and an honorable mention in art quilts for Palm Puzzle. Here are some pictures.

More later.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fabulous day!

We had a great, great day for the first day of the High Cotton Quilt Show. Beautiful weather, all the last minute details came together smoothly. Great turnout of visitors, lots of compliments on the quilts, good media coverage. I don't think you could ask for a day to go much better.

I'm hoping today will be just as good. The only thing I'm dreading is taking down the show. We're all so tired that will be a challenge. But the great thing is by taking it down today, we don't have to worry tomorrow!

Personally, I'm pretty pleased. I got a second place in group quilts for Peacock Blues, a third in art quilts for Angel of the Garden and Honorable Mention in art quilts for Palm Puzzle. And I got lots of compliments on my quilts.

I did demonstrations of free motion quilting on one of my treadle machines. I was scheduled for a morning session and got started a little late as I was acting as media escort for the reporter from the television news. The demo went great. I had lots of questions about technique and the machine, and lots of stories about learning to sew on a treadle, or watching grandmother sew on a treadle. Then, just as I was about to finish, the photographer from the newspaper showed up and he wanted to take some pictures. Hope some of them came out!

Time to get ready for another day. More later!

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's all a blur!

It's Friday and the High Cotton Quilt Show begins in just over three hours! The last few days are a blur of final projects and getting ready for the show. After getting the program booklet off to the printer (and getting a little "real" work done) it was back to prepping quilts.

Amazingly enough, everything got done. I finished both the Boxy Stars and Triple Star, got sleeves on the last quilts, sewed labels on everything, made little yo-yos which I glued on to clothes pins to hold the quilt labels, and even got finished cleaning the machine I'll use for demonstrations. Yesterday it was a busy day, picking up the programs, then helping where I could with setup, while taking pictures and setting the up winners list to print. Once I had the winners list, I entered it on the computer, then was off to the office supply store to have them print 500 copies which we'll insert into the program this morning.

Then home to relax just a bit, before pulling out the machine I'll use for demonstrations and setting it up and testing it. Thankfully, it sewed great right away, so no fussing with it. As soon as it's light, I'll be loading everything up and be off to the show.

It was great seeing my Triple Star hanging – especially since I don't have anywhere to hang a queen-size. Time to start getting ready. More later!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's getting close!

What a gorgeous weekend we had on Tybee Island! I was working, but still able to enjoy the perfect weather, and the sights and sounds of Pirate's Fest.

What fun it is to see all the costumes, props and accessories. People were dressed in everything from everyday clothing to improvised costumes, to inexpensive Halloween pirate costumes to elaborately detailed costumes.

As a fiber artist, I had to be inspired by the colors and textures, the contrasts, the feathers, the scarf and coin belts, the fabrics, the blinking and glow in the dark swords. So many visual impressions to capture. I liked the blues in the costumes in this picture, they really stood out in a group that had lots of red and black.

Now that it's over, I'm on deadline for the High Cotton Quilt Show. I have to turn in my quilts Wednesday afternoon, so I have two and a half days to finish!

Fortunately, I had a little time during the weekend to spend on the computer and was able to nearly finish the show program. Just a few minor tweaks this morning and it's off to the printer.

We got in early enough yesterday afternoon to spend some quality time in the studio. I finished the central quilting on the Boxy Stars quilt, and just have the border to finish quilting. I didn't make it to JoAnn's for more thread for Triple Star, so it's off to Plan B to finish quilting it.

Then bindings on both quilts, sleeves on those two and one more, and labels on everything. It's a lot to do in two and a half days, but somehow I'll get it done!

More later!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Climbing quilt mountain

The list of things to do is getting a lot more checkmarks, but there are still so many things to do before our quilt show! And I have to work all weekend, so am losing prime quilting time.

The pile on the left has hanging sleeves.  Triple Star,
in the background needs a little quilting and binding.
But the progress is there. I got almost finished with quilting the Triple Star a couple of nights ago when – drum roll – I got to almost the end of the spool of thread. And no, I didn't buy a second extra when I ordered last week! But I have a couple of options for finishing the two small sections that still need to be quilting. First is to get another spool of the thread, since I'll be in Savannah tomorrow. As long as they have more, I'm fine. If they don't have any more, I'm planning to use several different colors (matching the colors in the spool) to quilt on each square in the section, using a contrasting color in each. I think it would look great, just don't tell anyone I came up with the idea in desperation

My helper. I put a couple of bolts on top of the quilt so he
wouldn't test it for comfort, so he napped in my chair
and glared!
I still need to bind the Triple Star, but last night I started quilting the last of my quilts for the show, a Boxy Stars I started last year when Bonnie Hunter gave a class for our guild. I decided to go with a variegated pastel thread (don't worry, it's a big spool!) and a simple pattern with spirals connected by curving lines. It's coming along pretty well, I'm about halfway through quilting. Fortunately this is a smaller quilt.

The other stuff is coming along, just three quilts left to put sleeves on, which includes the two in progress, and the program for the show is moving along, though there is still a lot to do. That will be my priority for any bits of time this weekend, then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be a frenzy of quilting, binding and sewing on labels.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Almost and almost

What a beautiful weekend. If I hadn't been on deadline for sewing I might have spent part of it out working in the yard.

Instead I just enjoyed the view from inside and made progress on my list of to-dos. I had hoped to finish quilting the Triple Star, but it's not quite there – almost. I'm over halfway done with the piano key border and just have a tiny outside border to finish. As I was quilting yesterday I started watching the thread and worrying – why didn't I buy another extra when I ordered this spool. But I think I'll have enough. I guess I'll know this evening.

Last week, while I was quilting the first sections, I got my sweetie to video me quilting one of the flowers. I had to convert it to a smaller format to post, so here it is.

My quilting design is winding vines with very simple leaves. The flowers have a spiral in the center and petals curved like the top of the heart. I think it looks great, and pretty complicated, but all of the components are simple.

Other progress, I got Boxy Stars laid out for pinning and am about half done with pinning. I need to decide how I will quilt this one quickly, as time before the show is getting short.

Changing gears yesterday, I pulled out the sewing machine that I hope to use for demonstrations at the quilt show. It's a Singer 15-30 with Tiffany decals that a friend gave me last year. It's a treadle machine, but had a motor and light added at some time. I started the cleanup by taking off the motor and light and wiping it down with a damp cloth to remove the loose dirt and spiderwebs. This picture is after wiping it. It was moving very stiff – probably not oiled in years – so I gave it a good oiling with Tri-Flow synthetic oil, and left it to sit and soak in.

With a little luck, I can put this together with a base and simple top to make a traveling treadle.

Time to get to work, more later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back to the studio

Well the thread emergency was averted. My package arrived yesterday on schedule. Lesson learned, it's a lot cheaper to buy more thread than I think I need, rather than pay for two-day shipping to get it in an emergency!

I took a trek to town yesterday to meet members of our guild at the library to set up a display case with information on our show and on quilting. We're two weeks away from the show! Wow. I've been involved in planning events before, but I had no idea what was involved in putting on a quilt show. We've been  working on it for two years, but a lot of my work, as publicity and program chair, gets crammed into the last few weeks. Next time I'll remember to get my own quilts done earlier so I can concentrate on the show instead of trying to do everything at the last minute!

On a non-quilting note, while I was at the library I cruised through the Friends of the Library book sale. I picked up a few older quilting books, some hardback novels and some paperbacks. I was talking with another customer about how hard it is to remember whether you have a particular book and she showed me her list. Well, I used to keep a handwritten list but that was many books ago. So last night I checked around for book catalogue software and found one for Macs that I am impressed with.

It's called Bookpedia. You can download a demo for free, which I did, and buy the full software for $18, which I will do soon. I entered some of my new books and all I had to do was enter the ISBN to pull up all the information on the book. Once you save it you can sort by title, author or other criteria. You can also use a scanner to scan the barcode, rather than typing in the ISBN.

I don't know that I will ever enter all my books, but I think it would be worth the time to catalogue my quilt and fiber related books, and the ones by my favorite authors. Sounds like a good project for those cold winter evenings.

Looks like a busy weekend and I have a long list of things I want to get done.