A Ribbon, Good Friends, and Starting a Special Quilt

Canterbury Knight in AQS Syracuse with Ribbon and Libby

Canterbury Knight in AQS Syracuse with Ribbon and my friend Libby

This has been a rather emotional week.  First of all, as many of you already know, my little quilt Canterbury Knight won a second place ribbon in its category at AQS Syracuse.  On Friday, a very long time friend of mine Libby Hedrick in Ithaca, NY, pictured above with my quilt sporting its ribbon, went to the show and took bunches of pictures of the show and my quilt in place. She and her husband are musicians and we used to sew together and went to the same church and even performed music together when I lived in Ithaca, NY as a young wife and mother so long ago.  We have been friends all these decades despite not seeing each other very often after Marvin and me and the kids left Ithaca for Washington, DC.  What a sweet delight for me filled with memories and fun.

In fact, so many of my friends have been encouraging me, inspiring me, and helping me move my quilting art forward, and it seems to have been especially so this week.  I am excited about the future.  Yes, the future…I moved into quilting when I was in my late fifties from a clothes sewer and even fashion designer and I am 69.  One of my role models is “Grandma Moses” of the art quilting world, though my style of art is different.  I did get a running start on her…she started serious painting when she was 78!

From Wikipedia:  “Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), known by her nickname Grandma Moses, was a renowned American folk artist. Having begun painting in earnest at the age of 78, she is often cited as an example of an individual successfully beginning a career in the arts at an advanced age. Her works have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad and have been marketed on greeting cards and other merchandise. Moses’ paintings are among the collections of many museums. The Sugaring Off was sold for US$1.2 million in 2006.”

Sew now we’ve established that I am planning on a lot more quilting and that my Spiral Galaxy quilt is finished, I have been working on digitizing elements for my oldest son Ken’s quilt design he gave me for inclusion in my Ancient Manuscripts series in my Bernina V7 software.  It is a fabulous design, related to the knights of the round table.  The Celtic design border is the most problematic to make.   I’ve pretty much figured everything else out, except how to make swords look sharp and pointed in fabric.

Sew even though I am not going to share with you the entire design until later..maybe even after its debut…I will share parts of it here and there.  Right now I am working on border elements.  Here’s the upper left corner design.  I think he brought it in from a Dover publication and the original artist likely drew it in the 11th or 12th century.  So it needs a little cleaning up.  Here’s the design:

upper left corner...will be stitched in gold thread on a dark green background.

Upper left corner (7″ block)…will be stitched in gold thread on a dark green background.

I’ve already digitized a few designs and am about to go and do a stitchout. Here’s the image of the lower left corner (7″ block)

lower left corner

lower left corner

And here’s image of the smaller right corners (both the same)

right small corners

smaller right corner blocks

The bears in the border are the long designs that run the length of the borders between the blocks.  I’ll let you know how I solve this. I may end up painting some of the designs after stitching with gold paint.  I just have to work these things out one item at a time for this wonderful design and, like I suggested in a recent post, it is important to test these things along the way.

Sew happy everyone!  Thank you for your wonderful support and encouragement.  It means a lot.

 

 

Spiral Galaxy Completed and a Few Thoughts

I finished the quilt!  It hasn’t been professionally photographed yet, so full pictures will come later, maybe after its debut at a quilt show.  Here’s a detail shot I took myself in which you can sort of see my quilting:

detail picture by BJ

detail picture by BJ

When I finish a show quilt I really enjoy making I experience mixed feelings of delight that I have made a new quilt and a little let down on not having it to work on any longer.  This is at least in part because I am driven to create.

To me, creating is a most wonderful privilege given to me as a blessing by my Creator and encouraged by my family and friends.  Ever since I was a small child, I have been blessed with many talents, the strongest of these being sewing, art, and music. I do not engage in all of these at once, but like many artists, I have traveled from one to the other through my life with some overlaps from time to time.  For the past ten years, and drawing in more than sixty years (!) of sewing, I have worked to develop quilting as an art form and I have retired from music making. What I find so wonderful about quilting as an art form is that it draws together many of my interests and talents, even applying some of what I learned in the decades of my music, but that’s another topic.  Quilting has its ups and downs, but it’s very fulfilling to me to create a quilt of any kind and especially wall art quilts.  I intend to continue making quilts until I can no longer hold a needle or run a sewing machine…perhaps into my hundreds.  😀

I love showing my quilts to share the fun with my friends and in the hope that it makes people happy or inspired.  It adds a little spice and fun to that when I win a ribbon too.  I love sharing my techniques and quilt adventures because I would be delighted to see what I have learned become useful for other quilters.

Here’s where you can see my quilts as of publication of this blog post:

  • First of all, you can see pictures of many of my quilts either on my website gallery  or you can also see them here on The Quilt Show.  If you click on the photos in my website gallery, you’ll get the full view and look at the caption on the bottom of each quilt for the name of the quilt and the price of the quilt if they are for sale.  If you are interested in purchasing one of my quilts, or just want to know more about it, just contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com and I’ll get back to you shortly with more details about them.  I have a paypal account that enables purchases safely, so just contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com and I’ll get back to you shortly.
  • If you are going to AQS Syracuse at the end of this week and over the weekend, my little quilt Canterbury Knight is in the show.  It’s been through several shows and received Stevii Graves Judge’s Choice ribbon at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival earlier this year.  I would be very surprised if it takes a ribbon, but it is a very nice little quilt you would probably enjoy seeing.  I’m thinking this is probably the end of its show season and I plan on hanging it in my living room when it comes home.  It’s sister quilt Canterbury Silk is already hanging, and I think it will be a nice addition. So I’m keeping these two quilts and not putting them up for sale.
  • G Street Fabrics in Rockville has generously hung several of my quilts in their Bernina section.  Those are for sale, and include Dad’s House Plan, Kanazawa Memories, and The Storyteller.  I periodically change the quilts hanging there.
  • If you live or are coming near Ashburn, Virginia, send me an email and we can arrange for you to come see any quilts that happen to be here at the time.

Next it’s full speed ahead on the quilt my son Ken designed for me and continued work on my book.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to quilt…your child, grandchild, husband, wife, or neighbor.  It can be fun for everyone and a great stress reliever in these troubled times.

 

The Importance of Practice Pieces

I approach show quilting as an adventure (hence the words “Adventures in Fabric Arts” found on my blog heading).  Every show quilt I have made to date has been designed entirely from my own vision, or inspired by copyright free photographs interpreted by me, or my own vision enhanced with elements from royalty free sources such as Dover Publications.  I so far don’t use other people’s patterns, which I realize are often a wonderful way to approach quilting, and many people make magnificent quilts from patterns and add their own spin on them.  I admire these quilts too, but for me, I love my adventure in quilting.

Because of this approach, for every show quilt I have one or more test pieces accompanying it (I’m getting quite a stack of these little things, and I am reluctant to throw them away).  For making my Spiral Galaxy quilt, I have found this little test piece extremely useful:

Spiral galaxy study/test piece

Spiral galaxy study/test piece

First, I tested the painted background, which I put behind the spiral of Angelina Fibers:

painted background on the test piece

painted background on the test piece

Then I tested the threads for the quilting on this, which allowed me to make the decisions needed for both the threads and the quilting patterns/fills (see this blog post about making my deadline, in which I discuss these choices).

I also tested the spires behind select stars that I designed in my Bernina v7 software and stitched in the hoop.

Star spire test

Star spire test

Today, I am thinking of adding some fabric glitter paint to the very center of the spiral to enhance the look of my homage to the magnificent spiral galaxies created by God and photographed and processed by NASA that have so inspired me.  So I am testing that on the study piece.  So here you have the overall test/study piece, which is very roughly 15″ x 15″.

Over view of test/study piece.

Over view of test/study piece.

Sew I encourage you to include test pieces in your quilt making.  They can save you a lot of mistakes, picking out, restarts, and headaches of all kinds.

Sew happy everyone!  Develop your own adventures in fabric art, but be sure to start with a small study piece.

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Finished the quilting and adding the stars

I am totally amazed that I was able to finish all the quilting for the spiral galaxy so quickly.  Now I loved quilting on Gibbs, my Bernina 830 LE, and it made it possible for me to make quilts I would have otherwise struggled with a great deal.  But I am awestruck by the ease of free motion stitching/quilting on my new friend Fritz, my Bernina Q20 set up as a sit down longarm.  It is fast, its stitches are very even when I am using the BSRs, it has no problems that I have encountered so far with tension, it sews smoothly, and I can see everything.  I even found that using rulers (with foot #96) is just plain easy.  I see a very happy future with Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

Gibbs will still, of course, be a big player in my quilting life as will E.Claire, my little Bernina 350 I named after Edith Clair Head.  I also have Betsy, my sweet old Bernina 1230, and she is a wonderful machine that I use occasionally for some special stitching, since I have a lot of unusual accessories for her, and when I have other stitchers here in my small studio.

I am feeling exceptionally blessed with my studio lately and have some fun things planned for the future. Next on the docket is my oldest son Ken’s quilt design he gave me for my birthday (see my blog An Extraordinary Present).

Sew now I am putting the many hot fix crystals of different sizes and colors that represent the stars on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using a new notion to help me with this project.  In the past, I have occasionally burned around a crystal when I was placing it on a deep space quilt.  The veiling is nylon and the Angelina Fibers darken with too much heat.

I have been looking for something to help me get the crystals heat set without that and, thanks to a Facebook friend, I “discovered” rhinestone transfer tape.  There are several brands that were originally created for placing hot fix rhinestone designs worked out in cutting machines and others.  I am using it slightly unconventionally. I place a bunch of crystals on my quilt about where I want them, making sure they are right side up and then carefully lower down the tape and stick them all down.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

Tape holds down the crystals in place and acts as a pressing cloth.

The crystals stick to the tape and it holds them in place while I iron them on.  I then use my little individual crystal placement wand and hot fix them in place (the tape is still there between the crystal and the wand), and count (tapping my foot…one, two, three…twelve (for little crystals)…15 (for medium crystals)…32 (for big crystals).

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Heat setting individual crystals with the wand with the tape still in place.

Once all the crystals on the film are heat set, the tape peals off, leaving them behind.  You can tell from this if you have them all set, because if you missed one, it stays with the film, so you can set it back down and set that one.  No burns, no color changes for my Angelina Fibers, no movement of the crystals, no flipping them off the quilt and having them fly through the air to the other side of the room (yes, I did that!).  I caution not to keep the wand down too long, and to use the smallest wand end that works for the crystal size, though, because it is probably still possible to burn the quilt if you aren’t careful.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you have some time to create something wonderful.  In these dark times it is particularly important that we make our homes and office spaces beautiful and warm and surround our families and friends with love and beauty.

Thoughts On Wall Quilt Sizes

American Quilters Society (AQS) recently issued their new rules, which includes sizes by category, for their 2017 shows.  Regardless of whether they are made for shows, size of quilts meant for display on a wall is an important topic to me.  I would particularly appreciate comments back so we can actually have a dialogue about this.

Why is this important? There are a number of reasons:

  • They have to fit on the wall of people’s homes and businesses if they are ever going to be anything other than a flash in the pan for showing at quilt shows. I want to sell or give away to family and friends many of my quilts after they have been through their show season, so having them sized for people’s homes and businesses is an important issue.
  • I know from my own work that the size is often not a big factor in how difficult, how high the technique, how long a quilt takes to make.  Indeed, some of the smaller ones have been the hardest things I have made.
  • I believe that is true that a large quilt can have a bigger impact when displayed at a show among a lot of other quilts.
  • Larger quilts are more likely to be traditional and are intended to fit on a bed, although show quilts may not be.
  • Many quilters, including myself, have difficulties that make creating a large sized quilt nearly impossible.
  • Some shows do not award Best of Show (BOS) ribbons to “small” wall quilts.  Some of these can be as big as 59 inches in both directions, which is a large size for home displays and still are considered “small”.  In these cases, even if they have special prizes for exceptional small wall sized quilts, the financial awards for AQS, at least, are about half the BOS award.

Oddly AQS has a gap between their miniature quilt, which is 24 inches by 24 inches maximum and their small wall quilt, which is 30 inches by 30 inches.  They don’t have a square inch requirement, so if your quilt is 27″ x 37″, for instance, they cannot be entered in many of their shows despite the fact they are larger by square inches for the small wall quilt.  My Canterbury Knight quilt is 27 x 37 and could never be entered into Paducah, for instance.  Houston IQA is more inclusive.

Sew what do I find the ideal size for me to work in?  I like to make quilts smaller than about 48 x 48 and larger than 30 x 30.  The main reason for that is that my son Ken’s space for photographing my show quilts is 48 x 48, and it’s a really nice size to work in and the AQS 30 x 30 cutoff.  Also, I think it can fit on a normal home wall better than anything bigger.  while I may make a very small quilt, I am not a miniature show quilter.  That is a whole different set of techniques and design and it is not something I wish to get into.

Even for charity quilts a smaller quilt can be good.  I once did a survey for my church to find out what an ideal size would be that would serve as a wheelchair quilt, a crib quilt, or a lap quilt, and found to my surprise that the oft touted 36 inches width is sometimes frustrating to people who find it too narrow.  So after the survey I found that 40 to 45 inches wide and 45 to 50 inches long makes a very appreciated quilt size that can function for wheelchairs, children’s quilts,  and lap quilts.  Here’s my little guide I wrote up for the church, if you are interested.  It has several easy and quick simple patterns and other information:

Quilt Making for OSWLC needlework group

Sew happy everyone.  I would love to hear from you to tell me what your favorite sizes are for quilt making and what you think about sizes for quilts designed for the walls of homes and businesses?

 

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: Using Reference Aids

Since my last blog I have made much greater progress than I anticipated by this time.  I have completed the basic quilting, and I am currently adding the rust colored star  dust streaks that swirl through spiral galaxies.  I was a little worried about this part of the quilt, because the dust swirls in complex ways throughout the overall spiral and there is no way to mark this quilt.

I am happy to say that my method seems to be working, so I thought I would share.  I started the quilt by placing a NASA photo of the galaxy I am using as my model (see my last blog post) in Corel Painter and “tracing” a simple outline of the placement of the spiral arms and then moving it to Corel Draw and printing it full size.  Corel Draw will tile a picture into whatever size paper your printer handles, so you can tape it together and have a full sized pattern to work with.  If you have Bernina V7 design software, and don’t have Corel Draw, you can use the art canvas, which is a version of Corel Draw.  I also have found that Excel spreadsheet will also tile a picture, which is what I used before I had Corel Draw.

spiral galaxy print tiles pic

This shows how Corel Draw has divided the full sized picture into tiles for printing.

Then I traced the pattern onto the black fabric, but that is the sum total of any kind of pattern I could use on this quilt because after the Angelina Fibers and the veiling are placed down, you can’t trace anything, and there really isn’t much more you could make a pattern for anyway.

Sew I have gotten all the fiber applique and nylon veiling completely quilted, using 40 weight black thread and rulers for the basic swirl, monopoly over the fiber applique part and black 100 weight silk over the purely black part. I also embroidered spire star backgrounds for ten stars, using in-the-hoop and gray variagated 40 wt thread.

In order to free motion stitch (is it embroidery or is it quilting?) I have printed several pictures of spiral galaxies that show the rust colored dust swirls fairly clearly.  It actually looks very much like a woody vine.  Anyway, I place the pictures close by or even on the quilt so I can see them frequently and out of my peripheral vision and have begun the stitching that way

Sttitching with a reference picture

Sttitching with a reference picture

This quilt is a homage to the fabulous spiral galaxies sometimes photographed or even envisioned by painters in NASA’s website.  It is not supposed to be any particular spiral galaxy.  I am intrigued by the realization that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy.  Here is a link that talks about that and gives us some idea of where we are in the Orion spur part of the galaxy.  Milky Way link

This is the third of my deep space quilts.  Now that I have developed the techniques for making pictorial deep space quilts I am planning on making more.  I’m not sure how many more or which wonderful space entities I will use for the models.  I hope to develop at least enough to put together an exhibit in some gallery somewhere some year. I have discovered that some space entities work better than others for my quilts.  I have found that those that have more distinct characteristics, those that have more color, and those that stand a better chance of the viewers recognizing what they are looking at seem to be the best models.  Maybe some of the quilts will actually earn some ribbons for me.  That would be wonderful.

Sew happy everyone! I hope you can have some time to create in your studio this week.

Spiral Galaxy Quilt: I Might Actually Make My Deadline

I have made a good strong start on my spiral galaxy quilt.  I am using several pictures found on NASA’s gallery of pics of M101, aka The Pinwheel Galaxy as my model.  This is for inspiration and to get a good spiral galaxy look.  I will not be making a picture of this particular galaxy…it will be my homage to these gorgeous galaxies.  Here’s one:

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

Sew I have been thinking about making this quilt for over a year now, and decided I needed a quilt for the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) this September because I have plans to go to that show.  It’s nicely in driving distance and I have a friend who lives close enough for me to stay with her.  She wants to come and see it too.  The deadline is August 15th!!!!!  Yikes!!!!!.

The advantage to making this quilt on the fast track is that I have thought it through for some months and collected all the pieces.  I knew exactly how I wanted to approach it.  The time consuming part of this quilt is figuring out how to do it, quilting it, and adding the crystals.  I think I can make the deadline.  I first made a practice study to help me not only practice before quilting, but make decisions on threads and patterns.  Here that is:

Doing the study

Doing the study

So I decided on black 40 weight Superior Magnifico for the main swirl, Superior monopoly for quilting the spinoffs, Isacord 40 weight rusty number 1335, and 100 weight black silk for the background stippling.  I have hot fix crystals in three sizes, in ab crystal, blue, and pink.  I am planning on A LOT of crystals. Here’s a close up of one of the spiral galaxies…look at how many stars there are that look like crystals, and no, I won’t get anything like that, but it gives you an idea of why it needs a lot of crystals:

M74

M74

I got the background black fabric painted with an underlay paint of thin white to give the white, pink, and blue Angelina Fibers some help.  Then I made the Angeline Fiber applique in a couple of days and sandwiched the quilt … black back, black 80/20 Hobbs batting. the top, the Angelina Fiber applique (which is only sewn down during quilting), and topped it all with a black nylon bridal veiling and pinned it together.

Now here’s the thing that makes it potentially possible for me to meet this deadline…Fritz!  Yes, my new Q20 is really fast.  I also obtained a couple of sets of Lisa Calle’s pro echo rulers in long sweeping curves to help me quilt the main spirals.   Actually, I got that done and this morning I picked out and restitched the couple of problem spots, but they weren’t very much.  I was surprised by that.  The ruler work really did make it go smoothly and quickly.

quilting the main quilt

quilting the main quilt

I just started the vast amount of organic quilting.  This will take some time, but I have several weeks.  After quilting the swirl gas clouds, I have the organic looking rusty dust streaks that go with the swirls (take a look at the two NASA pictures, and I think you’ll see what I mean).  That will probably take another week.  That’s three weeks to complete the quilting. That will leave me time to bind it and get it photographed and an additional week to fix problem spots if needed (I really hope it isn’t).

So I believe I will make the deadline and it will be a fun quilt to show my friend in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) if it is let in the door.  LOL

Sew happy everyone!  Try a fast track quilt once in a while just to see if you can do it and for fun (but don’t stress out over it).