Monday, March 23, 2015


Here is where I left off last week, with a few pretty good ideas about the direction I would go on this quilt. I did a few more sketches on the plexiglas before I felt ready to start quilting. If you are here for the first time, I use plexiglas to audition different designs on a quilt top without having to commit to anything.  See this post and this one for my process with the plexiglas. This is not a marking tool, it is a drawing tool I use to develop a pleasing composition and it sure beats the sit and stare that I am also quite proficient at.

 I ended up quilting a combination of straight lines, swirls, mazes and in the sashing a traditional orange peel treatment and some circles. I used the fabric to dictate a lot of the quilting within the panel. Straight lines work to add texture and movement without distorting the images.

I always love adding some windy sky when I have the opportunity.

I followed the bamboo leaves with my stitching to accentuate the designs in the fabric.

 I used a series of mazes to fill in the borders and I did change thread to ivory to quilt the small sashing and the other light areas.

I love mimicking the Japanese motifs and adding straight line work to offset the designs.

Here is a close up of the different sashing and border treatments, this was quilted entirely freehand.

I think the finished quilt came out well and the quilting enhanced the quilt adding interest but not distracting from everything that is going on.
As quilters our biggest challenge is finding that balance in quilting that adds to the pieced top without overwhelming it,  quilting "enough" but not too much. 
Balance is golden.

In other exciting news, I managed to steal away some time for myself and took a class from one of my good friends and local teachers, Katie, who blogs at Sewkatiedid.
Her color, aesthetic and overall sense of design always inspire me and after my husband seemed to like her pillows better than mine when we were at their house for dinner I decided I needed to up my game in the pillow department.
 I love how Katie uses painters tape on her design wall to back into her designs 
and define the space for herself. 
These were some of her examples and step outs for the gradual curves class that I took.

Here is what I completed in the 3 hour class, which went by way too fast!
As an educator, I am finding that one of the best ways to be a better teacher is to continue taking classes as an open minded student. I have a lot of thoughts on this but can't seem to put them into words. It kind of goes back to the miracle of sharing,  it really does all come full circle. 

I played with my curves a bit more and hopefully once I get my studio cleaned I will finish this pillow!

My studio was clean for a total of 23 seconds before I decided it needed a total overhaul. I am adding two design walls and getting rid of a LOT of stuff. Right now it just looks like it threw up all over itself and no one wants to see that. Hopefully I will make some progress this week and come up with some brilliant functional work space ideas in my very cramped space.

Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.  It is good to be looking forward towards a renewed studio space that flows better. I'm excited for the prospect of having more time to focus on my own work as I wind down quilting for others. Finding the balance really is a beautiful thing. 
I hope you have a superb week ahead and find some balance in your life too.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Cleaning was inevitable. It had to happen....

I rarely custom quilt for customers anymore but I have a few ladies who have been with me from my beginning who I will always quilt for. This particular lady loves the asian panels and I have really enjoyed quilting these tops. There are a wealth of quilting designs to be found in the fabric and I have always felt comfortable playing with the lush traditional Japanese motifs.

I auditioned threads to get the process started. I will probably choose the lightest thread you see. And despite my dislike of changing threads I will likely switch on the ivory,  to... ivory.  My default thread color choice is almost always the lightest color present in the quilt top.

My machine and I love Superior Threads. 
So Fine 50 wt. thread is what I use for the 
majority of my long-arm quilting.
 Studio clean, quilt loaded, now what?
 You guessed it....Plexiglas.

The Plexiglas had a boxy maze drawn on it already, instead of erasing it I laid it down and used it as a starting point. I liked the way it looked over the circle, so I left it and started adding straight line work mixed with a tracing of the Japanese water and flower motifs.
Moving the Plexiglas from the quilt top to a white table, gives a different perspective, enabling you to see the quilting design independent of the quilt top. It's a great opportunity to start evaluating how the quilting works or doesn't work compositionally on its own.

I like where it's going but the circles need more definition, at this point I decide to get rid of the boxy maze outside of the circle and define the circles with a quarter inch (ish) echo.

 hmm...  it's ok but something isn't quite right. I feel like the density of the quilting in the circles is too heavy. Densely quilted areas are going to recede while the areas that are less densely quilted are going to pop. In this case I would prefer that the background recede not the circles... back to the drawing board so to speak.

I leave the boxy maze but change the scale, I do like a quilting design that maintains a similar density throughout. All the straight line work is still too much of the same for me, there is not a strong delineation between background and foreground. I am going to lose the boxy maze and add swirls to the background area to define and simplify the space.
I like the feel of where this is going, I think it is starting to work more fluidly with the quilt top.
I love working through my designs this way, I am able to see a lot of different ideas come to life without committing to anything.
I will continue working out the kinks in this quilting design but I feel more confident in my direction and don't feel like I am just staring at a blank canvas any longer.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make friends with your Plexiglas. 
I will leave you with a couple finished Asian panel quilt details, the first quilt is the back of an owl panel, the second and third are Kimono quilts, all pieced by Carlene Embry.

Have a wonderful week. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Class to Quilt-Compositional Drawing

As it turns out I am not very motivated to clean my studio. I headed out there this weekend with all good intentions of getting my space clean and I honestly cleaned (or more accurately, contemplated cleaning) for a total of five minutes before I found myself distracted by a drawing I had started at Quiltcon in my Compositional Quilting/DRAWING class.

I have to admit that after returning home from Quiltcon I have felt a little panicked. Panicked that I taught everything I had and that I was going to be out of ideas.
I began looking through some of the pictures I had taken while teaching (admittedly way too few) and that beautiful quote by Leonard Nimoy came back to me again.
"The Miracle is this, the more we share, the more we have."

Some Brilliant student work 

and WOW.

It was either the threat of cleaning or all of the energy and openness that I absorbed from my students that inspired me again....or maybe a little bit of both.
 I wasn't really out of ideas after all. Phew.
I put away any thoughts about cleaning (which wasn't hard) and started drawing and then quilting something I am pretty sure will be a sample for another class.

As a rule I don't generally mark on quilts. A whole cloth type quilt is obviously an exception to this rule. In my Compositional Quilting/DRAWING class we spend the class marking on mylar and then marking on a whole cloth.  Many years ago I took a whole cloth design class from Karen McTavish. It was a full day spent designing a whole cloth quilt that we took home to quilt. If you ever find yourself with an opportunity to take a class with her or see her lecture,
 DO IT,  I'm not kidding.
Whole cloth quilts are traditional by nature and are generally designed using beautiful floral or feathered motifs, stencils and if you have the patience the quilting usually involves some trapunto.

This was my finished Wholecloth quilt from Karens class.

From class to quilt.

In my Compositional Drawing-(expanded version) class it is my hope to merge the traditional with a more modern aesthetic. I don't know that a whole cloth will ever be considered "modern" but I do believe in my heart of hearts that there is a place for this type of quilting and design somewhere.

This is the fundamental basis for Compositional Quilting 

Filling in the blanks

I had to get rid of my free motion drawn swirls, I found I could not follow my own drawings.

I managed to quilt in the areas of feathers I should have left unquilted

Some new moon ideas

This is as far as I got, not bad for a weekend.

As you can see, cleaning is overrated and I am not out of ideas yet. I am hoping to be teaching this class and many others in the near future. I will keep you posted on the details here.

For those of you who feel inspired by this post, awesome. For those of you who enjoyed this post but feel less inspired and more discouraged by this post this last picture is for you.

While I openly admit I have skills,  I know that those skills didn't come without a lot of failures, practice and flat out shitty quilting.  Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, be ok with shit quilting, move on, take classes, learn as much as you can from yourself and others. You will never quilt exactly like me, just as I will never quilt exactly like Karen McTavish. And thank goodness for that, lord knows theres only room for one of her, and me and you. Be ok with that.
You be You. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Miracle is this:

I LOVE Austin TX.
 I just returned from teaching at Quiltcon 2015 and I really don't think I can do a blog post without at least mentioning how much I LOVE the food in Austin.  I'm not here to wax poetic about my diet or health but I will say I follow a pretty restrictive AIP Paleo diet and I found more delicious farm to table food than any celiac could shake a stick at.  Just sayin'.  Apart from eating at Max's Wine Dive a total of 5 times (in 4 short days),  I also enjoyed seeing some of my favorite people in the world and meeting some of my new favorite people in the world.  I am a very visual person and I am guessing if you're reading this blog, you are too.
  So, thanks for reading and come enjoy some photos with me.

This quilt; Diving Geese, pieced by Katie Pedersen, won best machine quilting at the show!!
Here are some pictures I took while quilting it. The last picture is a beautiful full shot of the quilt taken by Katie.

The Back:

The subliminal Star Trek emblem:

 Leonard Nimoy passed away four days ago and I started researching his life and his quotes. This one hit me hard and has resonated with me since.
"The miracle is this, the more we share the more we have."
-Leonard Nimoy

photo courtesy Katie Pedersen

I was able to share some of the things I have learned over the past ten years with my students at Quiltcon and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. My students filled me with their energy and spirit. I made this as a sample for my zig zag sampler class, one of my students took it home as a door prize!

 I always love a rainbow.

 Speaking of teaching and sharing, have you gotten yourself a piece of plexiglass yet?
This is THE TOOL I could not live without. If you were in one of my classes you might want to shoot yourself in the foot rather than hear me say it again but if you don't have one yet,
I use a 20"x30" piece of plexiglass that you can source from your local home improvement store. TAPE the edges with painters me, even though you think you won't,  you WILL draw off the edge. Mark on the tape "drawing side" so you only use one side.
Lay that bad boy down on your quilt and you can try out every design your heart desires to-scale. Deal with the density of quilting, play with different designs in different places.
 This is not a marking tool. 
This is a drawing tool to help you visually understand the space you are getting ready to quilt. 
You are also building muscle memory when you draw your designs.
 I'm not kidding, DO IT.

Now that I got all my design work sorted out I can start quilting without stressing about what I am going to quilt. If you're wondering about this awesome quilt it is a pattern called Modern Mountains designed by my namesake bestie Krista. You can find the free pattern here. This version was made by one of my awesome customers, Amanda.

Do I draw in a sketchbook? Yes, all the time. But the sketchbook does not give me the perspective to deal with density of quilting and other to-scale design issues.
I'm gonna say it again. PLEXIGLASS. DO IT.
Use your sketchbook too. Use it every day, bring it with you on the bus, train, airplane.
Don't be afraid to use anything/everything you see.  Designs belong to all of us. 

  I love moons. I love drawing them. I love quilting them.

Here is a sneak peak of a quilt my sweet friend Jen Carlton Bailly made for Cheryl Arkison's book, You Inspire Me to Quilt, coming out soon.  Of course I consulted my plexiglass first:

Collaborations are so awesome when you are on the same page with your friend/customer/collaborator. 
Plexiglass is a great way to visually communicate with your piecer, or yourself, if you're lucky enough to have the time to quilt your own work!

Plexiglass again? Are you sensing a theme here? I finally finished my value quilt and have been sleeping happily beneath it, even though it still remains unbound. Sorry for the blinding flourescent reflection.

And Voila:

 The last photos I am going to share are more WIP shots from a quilt that I quilted for 
Elizabeth Hartman for her book Patchwork City. I was so happy to see her sweet face in Austin and teach two doors down from her.  I am always in awe of Elizabeth's work. This quilt is badass and completely blew my mind. There are some of the coolest blocks in this quilt that I have ever seen. 

 I love the way the brilliant piecing in this quilt informed my design decisions to explore so many unexpected possibilities. I wish I had taken photographs of the plexiglass for this project. You can trust me though, I used it.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I expect you to have a sheet of Plexiglass before my next blog post which technically means you are off the hook for at least another 6-7 months, right?