Monday, March 30, 2015

Bound and Determined

I'm by no means a prolific quilt maker, a prolific quilter of other peoples quilts yes, but maker of my I am hoping that will change and I have taken some pretty good steps in that direction this year so far. I took three quilts to my very good friend Irene who does the majority of my binding for me. While I actually love doing binding, so does Irene and it gives me a good excuse to see her and sew pillowcases which apparently one household can never have enough of. I also can think of few things that I enjoy more than sewing and staring out onto this beautiful city I am lucky enough to call home.

In an incredibly short time frame my quilts are returned to me perfectly bound. And her only request is that I bring her more and soon.

I finally finished my value quilt! This was an exciting finish for me because it is the first quilt that I have made that actually fits the bed. What a novel idea, a quilt that fits a bed, who knew such a thing could be so useful? Every quilt I have made up to this point just barely covers the mattress....duh.
It is gigantic though and weighs roughly eighty thousand pounds. I had to enlist three friends to hold it up for me after we almost lost it over board the Vashon ferry.

For Katie's value quilt tutorial link here

This quilt is full of so many of my most treasured fabrics and backed with a very snuggly flannel and an even softer mini corduroy. I have been on a healing health journey and have been realizing the importance of sleep. 
I can't help but wonder if I may have taken this concept too far?
 Will I ever leave my bed again? 
When is cozy bad?
 Is too much sleep dangerous?
Can I cook from my bed? 
Should I move the kitchen to the bedroom?
I will get back to you with the answer to these pressing enquiries.

Another finish was my x-plus quilt that I started a very long time ago and finished piecing at my annual Loon Lake retreat. It was smaller than I had originally intended but it needed to be finished. Now it will fit in nicely with every other undersized quilt (besides giganto up there) I have ever made that serves very little practical purpose and barely covers a human.

I quilted an inch grid allover design on it, not the easiest quilting job but I am in love with the overall effect.

The final quilt that was bound for me was my newest sample quilt that I am in love with. It is my wholecloth sampler that I blogged about here

Speaking of whole cloth quilts, I took a whole cloth design class many years ago from Karen McTavish with my dear friend Barbara Magill. We took the class in Kansas at the Machine quilting show MQS. It was one of the first big shows I had ever attended and was so much fun in so many ways. Barbara and I took our hotel room apart moving tables and rearranging our beds and every thing else that weighed more than the two of us combined to accommodate our need to finish designing our work. We also collectively purchased more stencils than we could haul back to Seattle with us and I had weird bruises on my thighs from scaling a fence for Barbara's supply list that went flying out of her grasp in what seemed to me like a small tornado. In our beds that night we noticed that the blankets were heavy like lead X-Ray blankets and I almost wet my bed laughing when Barbara shouted out that the blanket just grabbed her ass. 
Barbara died last Thursday, she has fought cancer for as long as I have known her. We always joked,"what happens in Kansas stays in Kansas" it was one of the last things we said to each other. I am sharing a little bit of what happened in Kansas because it makes me too sad not to. Barbara never quilted her whole cloth, in the next few weeks I will be going through her things and I will find it and finish it, for her, for me, for us.
I am really going to miss her. Hug your quilting friends, cherish them, love them, laugh with them, remember them. 

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.