Diving into Fall Projects

Hi everybody!  We are nearly through August!!!  Yikes.  We (my oldest son is helping with this) still have not completed the design and accompanying embroidery designs for the fall/Thanksgiving table runner, but it is moving along and I hope you all are going to love it and want to make one yourself.

Oh, I finished my Kingfisher pillow project and one of the two YouTube videos is published. Video link

I love the way it came out.  So here are some statistics you may find of interest:  I have at this moment in time (8/24/2022) 431 subscribers, 143 views of the Kingfisher video 1, and only 11 likes; 9 downloads of the free pattern, 62 clicks for the products I linked to with my affiliate links, and zero purchases on Amazon and 341 clicks for Wonderfil Threads (they really are wonderful threads) with no purchases.  Though I sometimes have considerably more views on other videos, I seldom have a higher percentage of likes and have never made anything from any of my affiliate links.  I’ve had a few people buy something, but never enough for me to get paid (there is a minimum). I’m trying not to be discouraged. Perhaps it will pick up when I get video 2 published, or maybe the Fall Thanksgiving project will turn things around.  Maybe I just haven’t reached the right audience yet, but will at some point.  I refuse to think that people just don’t like what I do (LOL).  I’m hopeful my affiliates will continue to allow me to hang in there until things get better.  (See, I still think I will succeed eventually).

My dear late mother taught me all along the way when things got discouraging that “You’ve got to stick-to-it-tivity.  You’re going to do alright, you’re going to be all right!”  She usually sung that in her beautiful voice with her sparkling eyes looking at me.  That memory has been following me around lately.  I think it is from her.  Sew that is what I am going to do for quite a while yet.  Besides, I am having some fun here, making and filming these projects.

I am still considering if I should make a Christmas project.  It’s getting late in the year.  Most people have already started their Christmas projects by now I think.  I figure they don’t do like I do and wait until the last minute for making things.  My Deep Space Quilt 4 project might suffice (that will just be a sharing of the making, not a tutorial with pattern).  It is full of stars and light sparkles that I am hoping to complete for my own Christmas decor and other times. I will note that it is hard to film sparkles and shines, but worth a try. Here’s the NASA picture I am basing it on:

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures the spiral galaxy NGC 105, which lies roughly 215 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces. While it looks like NGC 105 is plunging edge-on into a collision with a neighbouring galaxy, this is just the result of the chance alignment of the two objects in the night sky. NGC 105’s elongated neighbour is actually far more distant and remains relatively unknown to astronomers.

I also am planning some basic kinds of short videos showing how to use the Bernina Q20 sitdown (and that would be the same for the Q16), and how to use some of those fancy stitches most of us have on our machines these days with interesting threads.  Coincidentally, you may have seen this, but I tried out the “hand look stitch” on my Bernina 880 plus with the following results…I will use this somewhere. Perhaps with the crazy quilt major project I am planning for 2023.

Here I used 100 weight matching polyester in the top and 12 weight cotton in the bottom. Bernina recommends monopoly in the top and 30 weight thread in the bottom. I will experiment more with this stitch. It is available on most modern day Berninas.

Sew let’s all have fun in our studios.  It’s time to quilt!

 

 

Embellishing Your Projects, Part One

Sky Horse from 2014. This quilt won several ribbons and was shown at Houston IQF in 2014. It is inspired by NASA photos of the Horsehead Nebula.

Hi everyone,

I was just listening to Dee’s Saturday Sampler (TQS) talking about adding hot fix crystals to quilts.  Now she did a nice presentation.  But there were a few points that I would like to add.  I have lots of experience doing this across the years, especially for my deep space quilt series and Christmas quilts.  Also, I add a few crystals for many other types of quilts. Even though I wrote about this in a blog back in 2018, I thought it was time to revisit this technique and update what I said back then.

Stellar Nursery, my first deep space quilt using NASA’s “Mountains of Creation” pictures.

 

My love for embellishments started decades ago when I had my own fashion design and tailoring business when I designed and my shop made formals, wedding dresses, and costumes for operas, dancers, and skaters.  Back at the beginning of that business, I hand sewed or glued most of my embellishments on.  Now I mostly use hot fix embellishments, including Swarowski crystals, hot fix pearls, and different shapes.

Out of Mom’s Workbasket. This quilt won Third Place in the Traditional category in Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival 2021. I did not show it elsewhere because it is white and precious to me. I used hot fix pearls across the quilt.

I recently replaced my hot fix crystal wand.  It works very well for me especially when I use hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! It works also with digital cutters that make hot fix crystal designs, such as the Brother Scan and Cut, but you need the Rhinestone Starter Kit to go with it for that. I do not have this kit, so I have not tried making them.

Sew here are my steps for adding hot fix crystals to a quilt.

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. With your craft or old scissors, cut a piece of the transfer tape (I use both a smaller cut of around a six inch square and a larger cut of about a 10 inch square. It’s reusable about four or more times.
  3. Place the item you are embellishing  flat on the table or ironing board.
  4. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  5. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) on a section of the quilt in the pattern you want them .
  6. Lower your transfer tape piece carefully down over the section of crystals trying not to disturb the pattern and press it down around the crystals and more or less attaching to your project.
  7. Grab a large ceramic cup  or dish to put your hot wand into.  I think the cup works a little better than the dish shown here, but either one works better than those little stands that comes with some of them.
  8. With the wand iron, heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs.  You can move the whole tape with the crystals on them a little bit as you need them.  Hold it firmly in place and tap your toe, or count slowly.
    • tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
    • medium ones require about 20 counts
    • the larger ones require more…30 to 40 counts to be really secure.
    • the shaped ones do best with a small iron flat on the tape.  I did have one iron get too hot on the tape once and it melted a piece of the tape!  I only had it happen once and that iron died shortly thereafter, so it may have been operating badly on the way out.

The transfer tape does not melt and acts as a pressing cloth, protecting the fabric to which you are attaching the crystal from burns by the wand. It also holds the crystals in place so they don’t go flipping off into never never land. If it gets just a little out of alignment, you just move the tape…the crystal stays on the tape until it is fully glued down and then releases with no problem. This means you can pick up your tape slowly to check if you’ve missed one or if it needs more time and replace the tape if so.

Another way to approach it is to place multiple crystals on the tape upside down with the crystals to the sticky side and just move the tape around and place the crystals on one by one. This is a particularly good method for clothing and other shaped pieces when you are having a hard time getting them flat for crystal placement.

I like to shake the quilt when all the crystals are cool to see if anything falls off.  Sometimes it does, but now is the time to find out.  So just put the crystal back down and cover it with the tape and re-iron.  Occasionally, a crystal does not seem to have adequate glue, so you can throw that one away and use another one, or use glue to affix it.

These crystals and pearls really add some loveliness to your projects.  They are washable and durable, especially if you shake the item to make sure they are fully attached.  Some say it is possible to get carried away with such crystals and pearls.  Some quilt police types feel they should never be on  your quilt.  I say, it’s your quilt.  Add the sparkle you want and ignore them and enjoy your blinged out piece.

Sew happy everyone!  Have fun in your studio!!!

 

 

 

Having Fun in My Studio

Someone asked me recently what I have been working on lately.

I have finished the Kingfisher wool applique by machine pillow top project (basic design without the eye pupil, which is a very small black button, shown above). I haven’t made the pillow yet, but will in a few days. I have some really black stretch denim I think would make a nice pillow back for it. I think it needs to be something kind of heavy to balance the wool which I have sandwiched and quilted, and a little stretch will help the pillow look good. I haven’t decided whether to put cording in the seam or not.  I like it a lot even though it is relatively simple. Two videos will come out of this project. One will be published soon…probably this coming weekend. It’s being edited and there will be a free pattern available for it on my website which I really hope you will download.  I will provide a link to it when my video is published.

Also, just yesterday, I got a stack of color cards for Wonderfil Threads of various types and a few sample spools, which are really a fun way to shop for threads.  I don’t have a local source for my favorite threads so I have to order them.  I have a Thanksgiving table runner project that I plan on using their threads for embroidery, applique, and quilting for that.  So I have to hurry, because it’s already August!!!

I love figuring out threads this way.  I can take my time, try out the thread samples, and see the actual threads.

Magnifico by Superior color card image

I also have some color cards for Superior Threads.  If you have to order your threads to get the kind you like, I highly recommend getting some of these sample cards even if you have to buy them.  Sometimes they give them away at big events like quilt shows or cut the cost for them a lot.  But even so, they provide color accuracy and coincidentally they are fun to look at if you love threads like I do.

So I have also been adding to my stitch library with pages for Wonderfil, Superior, and Miscellaneous thread types.  Today I made a page for different Wonderfil types, with a line of decorative stitches per type.  I encourage you to make your own library of stitches and thread types pages. It’s not only fun to stitch these pages but really useful.

 

And last, but not least, I worked up, but not yet printed, a full sized guide for my next deep space quilt.  That’s the closest I ever come to a pattern for this style quilt.  Basically, it’s a placement guide for the space objects.  I also print out the NASA picture or pictures of the space scene or objects and then build the scene on fabric using a little background paint, and Angelina Fibers hot fix fiber (they stick to themselves not the fabric) appliques, and I cover the whole quilt top with black nylon veiling. I sandwich it all together and baste it down.  So then I use quilting and free motion embroidery to build the space objects and quilt the whole thing.  It’s one big whole cloth quilt with big appliques, and different sizes and colors of hot fix crystals.   It’s loads of fun, but does require a placement and sizing guide to make it even start to look right.  I will be showing just some of the making of this quilt for fun…but not a how-to like some of my work.

Sew I have been having fun in my studio. That’s what I am working on.

Sew happy everyone.  Have fun in your studio too!

 

 

 

Capturing An Explosion of New Ideas for Future Projects

Hi everybody!  I think we all need a diversion and some quilting to help deal with the roiling of events in the news lately.  As for me, I have been starting two new projects after my last one that was going to be entirely on painting quilts took a nose dive.  By the way, if you want to know about painting quilted fabrics stay tuned. I will still present these techniques scattered throughout my other projects as needed, but not a whole video series for those techniques after all.  Mostly I have to work on camera placement and filming techniques for painting quilted fabrics. The problem was entirely related to painting while filming.

Sew what are these new projects?  Well, one of them, and the next video project, is a second dive into wool applique by machine in which I will be making a pretty scene with a Kingfisher bird on black wool that will be sized for use as a decorative pillow top.  I am nearly finished making the pattern and I will be using my Scan and Cut digital cutter to cut the pieces.  The downloadable pattern will be available on my shop for a small amount and will include both a pdf file for those who do not have a digital cutter and the svg files divided by color for those who do.  I will be providing videos showing how I do them for this project, including the use of my new Scan and Cut.

The second project is a new “show quilt”! Sew there will be a video exhibiting only some of the making of this quilt and there will be no pattern.  I am  making my fourth deep space quilt and as soon as my fabric arrives this week I’m ready to start construction.  I will be using Deep Space II #98 Peppered Cotton designed by Pepper Cory to build the scene, inspired by NASA photos of M51 Galaxy (there are many), which is a spiral galaxy that has a second spiral galaxy farther away and kind of behind it on the edge, making it look like a small spiral is attached to the larger M51’s tail.  Unlike most of the other peppered cottons, this one is not a shot cotton but is yarn dyed intensely black. It makes me happy that the name of the fabric is “Deep Space II”. Thank you Pepper for bringing it to my attention.  I love making deep space quilts.  They are a whole cloth quilt, built entirely with free motion stitching and almost no marking.  It includes a  little paint, a large Angelina Fibers applique, and covered with black veiling, then quilted together in ways that make sense, and adding some free motion embroidery to represent the space dust. After that, I add a lot of hot fix crystals, kind of using the NASA photo as a guide for placement to represent stars. Some of the larger stars or star clusters are sometimes backed with an embroidered representation of the light that shoots out around it from the lens flair often in a cross shape that is highlighted on the NASA photos. This adds to the interest and beauty of the quilt in my humble opinion.

Practicing for making a deep space quilt.

 

I like having two very different style projects going at once because it allows me to move from one to the other when I need a break from some aspect of a project.

Sew this past week I spent a fair amount of time thinking about and updating my Quilt Project Plans spreadsheet for the remainder of this year and into next year.  It is way more than I can possibly do in that space of time perhaps, but it is wonderful to look forward to the near future projects and be able to pick from some of those I have already thought through a lot.  I also keep a handwritten notebook where I describe most of the projects more fully and sometimes keep outlines and notes to help me make them.  I have been doing this for many years.  Way back to when I only did clothing designs and sewing.  It’s sometimes fun to take one of the old notebooks and look through them to see just what I actually made of the many plans that have floated by.  I sometimes pull a long-forgotten project out and make it.

Here are some pages from my Pendragon quilt project that I did complete and that was shown in several prestigious quilt shows, including Houston.  The sample shown here is a test for the upper left corner of the border.

Sew happy everyone!  And remember, sometimes you need to abandon a project and not feel like it is a fail. Doing so can often open up an explosion of new ideas when you realize you no longer have to struggle to complete something that just isn’t working, and sometimes persistence through the challenges helps you to finish works and you come out with a real winner.  Give yourself permission to take the path that works best and be sure to have fun in your studios!

 

Happy 2022! Looking Forward to a Good Year

We made it through 2021!  Hooray!  Happy New Year everyone!  I am taking a positive approach for 2022…expecting it to be a good year full of light, love, peace, and productivity! So what’s first up for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts?

I talked a little about this in my last blog post.

  • I will soon be presenting the first in a three-part series of videos coupled with the publishing of a workbook with pattern for the Two Birds Project.  The first part is completely filmed and being edited, and the workbook is fully written and being edited.  The two remaining videos are filmed all but the short openings and I need to record the voice-over scripts for them. It will be a fun set for my followers and I’m excited to get to this point.
  • I am working on putting together a wool applique by machine project. Wait until you see what can be done with these techniques and materials! It’s really going to be fun!
  • I have worked up a production plan for the first part of the year that includes show quilts (to fit within my architectural, ancient manuscript, and deep space genres), applique projects (both wool and other fabrics), and multiple shorter technique skill project videos that I think you will enjoy. There may be other things too along the way. Plus a little bit of clothes sewing.

I got a fun addition to my studio for Christmas, a Brother Scan and Cut DX.  I have been spending the last several days learning all about it and how best to use it.  It adds lots of new possibilities and a great help for the applique quilts for sure, but I can also make some quilting stencils and other things I am thinking about.  I now have both the Applique Go! with a nice collection of dies to help me cut multiple layers of fabric for snuggle/quick-to-make quilts and the Scan and Cut for cutting digitally created shapes for more complex individual applique designs among other things…how wonderful.  Truly, except for wishing I had more space and storage (doesn’t everyone?), I have a marvelous studio for designing, quilting, and stitching adventures complete with the video equipment well set up for filming them.  And yes, I also have significant help from my delightful family.  Oh, and don’t forget, I have newly improved eyesight to help with all of this!  I am totally thankful both to my kids and my Lord for all of this.

Sew I am making a kind of fresh move in my YouTube channel, pattern making, and books now at the beginning of 2022.  Last year  seems like kind of a rehearsal and learning period for me.  So I’m excited.  I hope to get a lot of new subscribers/readers and provide significant content you all will enjoy.  I love sharing my work with you.

Let me know if there is a particular subject you want me to cover either in comments here or on my videos on YouTube.  I will see what can be done.

Sew happy everyone! Have fun in your studio!

 

Merry Christmas and New Adventures for 2022

I digitized and embroidered this star as an applique. It is on one of my Christmas quilts now owned by my church.

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you are already enjoying this wonderful season.  It is one of my very most favorite times of the year. We are having a relatively simple celebration this year, but it is still joyous. Right now I have The Piano Guys YouTube videos of Christmas music playing while I write this.  They are fun.  Have you seen the one with the Christmas scene and all the cameras riding around in the little train, on the Christmas tree, and in the drone flying in the room?  Here’s the link. It’s really fun.  Or how about the one all done in legos.  Here’s that link.  So creative and beautifully performed.

Well, I finished the Two Birds quilt along with completing the filming of the videos. The whole stack of hours and hours of videos I made while I made the quilt, along with the voice over reading, and the intro and exits parts we filmed together last weekend are now being edited by my oldest son.

I have written the pattern and workbook that goes with it, and that too is being edited by the family team.  I don’t know when we will get the first video of that project published but hopefully not long now.  It’s a big job to edit such a tangle of videos, voice overs and corrections into three publishable videos that make sense and are also interesting.  It has already taken much longer than any of us anticipated, but that was primarily due to my unrelated circumstances this year that delayed things, such as my cataract surgery among other things.  But that is all behind me now and I greatly look forward to the coming new year.

I have every expectation that we will produce much more content for my YouTube channel at a bit faster pace and with ever increasingly interesting projects and building professionalism.  I have gotten to where I don’t get bothered by the cameras, know how to set them up properly, and have lots of fun ideas for new stitching/quilting/videoing projects.  I have learned that the videography is as important as the making of the fabric art piece to make it all work and find it also very interesting.

I still have only about a third of the subscribers and a fourth of the viewership needed to monetize the YouTube channel, but it is growing and I nevertheless enjoy being able to share my projects with my viewers.  I hope you all enjoy the videos and will be happy to see them when a new one is published.  We have several projects already planned for the new year.

First of all, I want to create some new wool applique by machine projects, because I think it is possible to make some stunningly beautiful pieces in this category that has hardly been touched in the quilting/fabric art world using the machine and my initial project was only a basic introductory layout of the techniques. It’s an adventure to see how far this can go.

Then I have three new show quilts in mind for 2o22 that I think you will all love or at least enjoy watching me make them.  I hope I can succeed in getting all three made.

There will be a number of short and shorter videos showing techniques and use of tools.

And then I need to make some new clothes.  I have everything I need for them and will try to spread them across the year so I have something new and fun to wear once in a while.  I probably won’t buy any ready-made clothing this year just as a sort of challenge to myself for fun.  I haven’t decided whether or not to video these projects.  What do you think?

Sew happy everyone!  Have a wonderful holiday season and I hope you also Have Fun in Your Studios!!!

 

 

 

 

A Show-and-Tell of My Experimental Quilting

knight detail from “Equipped to Stand”

My family helped me produce a new video I could never have done on my own for my YouTube channel that is a discussion and trunk show of my experimental quilting.  I think you might enjoy seeing it.  Here’s the link:  video

For years I have thought of much of my work as experimental fabric art, where I try to get certain looks in my quilts and sometimes had to develop a new technique or figure out how to apply a known technique to produce the look I wanted or just to see what something would look like.  It has been a bit of a wild ride over the years and so it seemed the thing to produce a show and tell for you all.

Thanks to my family for their help and encouragement both for the videos and the quilting. There are some fun things on the way.

Sew happy everyone!

 

Fine Tuning Fabric Art: Applique Styles

Hi all y’all.  Do you enjoy applique or do you only use it when there is absolutely no other way to get the look you want?  I was surprised several years ago when I attended a major quilter’s class and she introduced me as an applique-er.  After thinking about it, I think she is mostly right.  I thoroughly enjoy applique of several artistic techniques. I select the technique by their complexity, the kinds of fabrics I am using, and the style I want to show.  These include:=

  1. fused or glued stitched raw edge
  2. placed and held in place by veiling and then free motion stitched down.
  3. turned edge glued and blind stitched by machine
  4. applipieced/pieceliqued
  5. In-the-hoop applique

For complex edges, especially, my favorite technique is stitched raw edge applique.  This is where I fuse it down and stitch along the edge using either a narrow vari-overlock stitch (like a hem stitch but it has fewer stitches between the zig-zag stitch) with a Superior monopoly thread or a 100 weight polyester or silk matching thread so it basically disappears. Narrow blanket stitch also works well.  I don’t particularly like zig zag for this, but I know some who do. I also found I cannot get a good result for complex appliques without some kind of adhesive use along the edges.

The Announcer, the Horse, and Bird appliques From Canterbury Knight are all stitched fused edge appliques hand painted by me.

To show off the edges I very much like the blanket stitch using decorative thread picked to show.  I don’t see a difference when doing this using raw edge or turned edge appliques, because the edge is covered with the thread.  The blanket stitch may be either a double blanket stitch if you REALLY want to see it, or a single using a heavier 12 weight thread so it highlights the edges.  This is a particularly good approach if you are having problems with your applique not showing up well because you chose to use fabrics that are close in value or color.  Sometimes I have found it very difficult to carry out the design I have in my head with a clear value difference between the applique and the background. I also can fix this problem with a hidden edge applique technique combined with a straight stitch outline stitched along the edge in a contrasting color decorative thread.

Dad’s House Plan. The house and roof of this quilt were turned edge machine stitched appliqued in most places.

For less complex shapes, I have found the turned edge with the vari-overlock narrow stitch with monopoly or matching 100 weight thread looks very close to turned edge hand stitched applique.  In my case, the machine stitched looks much better.  haha. If you don’t have a vari-overlock stitch on your machine, it is very similar to the blind hem stitch that nearly all today’s machines have in their utility stitch set, it just has more straight stitches between the zigs or zags, so making the stitches shorter overcomes that problem.  I start by turning the edges around either a piece of lightweight interfacing that is going to stay in place, or a freezer paper shape ironed to the back.  I usually find that just grocery store starch I paint on with a small stencil brush works well to hold the turn in place, and then remove the freezer paper before gluing it in place to the background.  One can glue it however, with washable glue sticks, and a lot of applique-ers do that.

Here we have a complex edge that I have starched the turn over with starch onto freezer paper. The next step would be to remove the freezer paper, turn it over and stitch it in place onto the background fabric. You might want to iron the turn down a little more after removing the paper.

When I am making one of my deep space quilts, I make the “gas cloud” that surrounds and plays throughout a galaxy from hot fix angelina fibers.  These fibers only stick to themselves and flatten out into a sort of fabric so they don’t stick to the background fabric.  You can’t use a fusible web with it because it shows, nor can you use glue because even if it dries clear you can still see it through the clouds.  So I cover it with black nylon veil and just free motion stitch it into place.  I may pin it a few times, but I don’t even like to do that, because the holes remain if you happen to hit it just wrong.  So I just have to hold it in place and stabilize it with a little of the stitching before I do the free motion embroidery-like quilting. I think this method would work well for a net or lacy applique also.

Sky Horse photographed by Ken Tatum

And then for piecing together areas like adding mountains or suns or other large parts of a pictorial quilt, there is applipiece (Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s term) or piecelique (Sharon Schamber’s term) where the piecing is done using turned edge applque stitched  (as described above under “less complex shapes”) from the top by machine usually using monopoly or very light weight thread and the vari-overlock or blanket stitch and then cutting the area joined from the back down to a little less than a quarter inch seam.  The complex edges require snipping into the edge periodically to facilitate the turning around the shapes).  This is one of my favorite methods when creating a pictorial or other free style design background.

The Storyteller, a Hoffman Challenge piece where the entire background was applipieced/pieceliqued together.

In the hoop applique requires “a whole nother” set of activities and skills beginning with digitizing your design in software or purchasing a commercial embroidery design.  I use this occasionally, but not often.  It usually uses satin edge stitch to sew down the appliques, though it sometimes uses blanket stitch.  If I am going to use satin edge I try to do this in the hoop because the satin stitch can then be digitized to have beautiful miters and properly angled stitching, which is really difficult just using the satin stitch outside the hoop.  It is possible to get a nice satin stitched edge for simple shapes with care in regular nonhoop stitching though.  Then you can add additional decorative stitching in-the-hoop for nice results.

5″ x 5″ fabric greeting card or mug rug in the hoop

You can read more about this method in my book Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.

That pretty much covers the methods I use for applique.  I am using stitched raw edge applique that has been attached with Steam-a-Seam 2 for my wool applique by machine.  First I am stitching it down with monopoly and then I am doing the decorative stitching around the edges and inside the appliques.  This means I can use the decorative stitches to make the look I want without worrying about whether or not the stitch catches the edge of the wool applique, which I find a big advantage.

Detail showing some of the stitching on my practice wool piece

Sew happy everyone!  Put on some good music or an audiobook and start with a small applique project.  It is fun, but it does require some time to get it right.  Still, by machine is faster, or at least less problematic for arthritic hands than by hand, however beautiful it is.

 

 

Quilt Shows: Take Heart

I remember quilt shows, do you?  Where we gathered together and admired the show quilts, saw our friends, and took classes and bought stuff from vendors?

A haul from one of the quilt shows I attended a few years back.

They seem so far away now.  I do admire how much some of the show people are trying to keep this experience alive by doing virtual quilt shows, and they are fun.  I usually attend and pay the suggested attendance fee, though I haven’t taken a class that way yet.

They are, however, different.  I can see they might stay even after we get back to post-pandemic normal, whatever that is.  I think we will eventually have both in person and virtual quilt shows in the future.  Some teachers seemed surprised to realize that there is a vast quantity of quilters and sewists out there who have never even been to an in-person quilt show and are really happy to have the chance to take a class from a major teacher, see all the quilts in the contest, and have some shopping opportunities from the online vendors.  That’s why I think that will stay even when we do get back to in-person shows.

Stellar Nursery, created in 2009 inspired by NASA photograph “Mountains of Creation”. This was my first quilt (other than Hoffman Challenges) that was accepted in a major show. It was shown in MAQF in 2009. It didnt really dawn on me that year that I could send it to other shows. See, we all have to learn. This hangs over my Bernina 880 plus and sparkles looking for all the world like a space ship window framing out a gallaxy .  I made it on my Bernina 830 I no longer own. I no longer put borders on my deep space quilts, but in the black part of the pieced border I machine embroidered schematics of various constellations in black thread reversed so that when you see the back you see the constellations around the quilt in the right way.  I doubt the judges even figured that one out but I know it’s there and love it all the more for that.

Sadly, several shows, professional quilters, and vendors have permanently closed or already shut down for another year because they could not make ends meet and it looks likely the situation will continue far into 2021.

I guess I am the optimistic sort, however, because even as I am sympathetic to those involved and am very sorry to lose these parts of our wonderful quilting and sewing community, I believe we will rebuild and it won’t be as long as some predict.

In the meantime, I love seeing some of the developments of online classes, and sharing videos, and other opportunities to keep our talents alive and well and growing while we wait the end of the pandemic. I also see some real improvements in the online quilt shows that admittedly were a little rough around the edges when they first started, but seem to be settling into really fun venues now.  I suspect they will improve further.

Originally I was not going to enter online shows, but I changed my mind.  I have a couple of quilts all ready that I would like to exhibit and so why not?  Some of the rules have relaxed allowing older quilts or any size quilts into the shows, for instance.  Some of the photographic presentation online is clearer and you can see the quilting better.  They show all the entered quilts online, not just the winners like they usually do on their websites.  The cost is only the entry fee and not the shipping and nail biting while that show quilt is moving around the country.  So just for fun, I’m going to enter a few here and there to see what happens.

Sew happy everyone!  Take heart.  This is not permanent.  There are even some good things happening out there right now.  Do you have a fabulous older quilt you never got entered because you missed a deadline, for instance?  Now may be the time to fix that. Just get some good photographs (pin them to the design wall or hang it on a curtain rod and light it well, then snap away with lots of photographs using slight differences of settings and then pick the best or hire someone).  Cheers!

Wool Applique and Other Things

Hi dear readers.  I am pretty excited because I have finally gotten a good start on my wool applique project and have made a decision about what I will work on for my secondary project.

Test and practice piece I made to make some decisions before starting the actual project.

So today I pulled together all the pieces I have had around the studio for a while that are available for my wool project.  I was pleased to find my packages of felt that I had bought some years ago are fine melton wool felt .  These are mostly two unused packages of a variety of colors I bought them from Nancy’s Notions probably 7 or 8 years ago and they are in wonderful shape. They don’t have these now, so I recommend Sue Spargo sets such as the blue set or the red set I highlighted available on Amazon.

Here are the melton wool pieces I will be using for this project. The background reddish brown piece is richer in color than it appears in this picture. It is one of the new pieces I ordered from a tailoring supply place in California. The smaller precuts were purchased years ago in multicolored packs and are also melton wool felt.

I have several gorgeous melton wool pieces in one yard cuts that I ordered about a month ago.  Since the wool applique projects I am making for my book and videos are small, these 60 inch wide one yard cuts will make two or even three of the projects background pieces, a test piece, and are likely to have small leftover bits that can be added to the smaller pieces for the appliques.

Detail showing some of the decorative stitching.

I have also been identifying where to find the supplies for people who want to make these projects themselves.  I will share those with you at some later point once I figure it all out.

A detail from the test piece showing how well the applique is stitched on by machine with almost no visibility of the stitches.

I have some interesting hand woven placemats I bought somewhere sometime years ago and decided they were not going to work for placements for me, but they were really interesting handwoven look.  I don’t know the fiber content though I think it is cotton and wool, and I can’t even remember when or where I bought them. I washed and dried them by machine and they came out in good shape.  They will be an interesting addition for appliques I can use in the future or for the show quilt I am planning on making at the end of the great wool project.  Before I cut them out, they will have to be backed with interfacing and/or Steam-a-Seam fusible, which kind of acts as a stabilizer and will keep them from fraying.  I will show those to you when I figure where and how to use them.

Additional detail stitching. I am saving a library of these stitches as I have them set in the files on my Bernina 880 Plus. I have had this machine for about a year now and the more I use it the better I like it. It’s amazing.

Sew I have made a couple of decisions  for studio activities for the future.  I plan on making a new deep space quilt as my second project to work on for when I need a break from the wool project.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 one of my deep space quilts.

I always want two projects going at once to give my mind and sewing muscles differing things to do from time to time.  The neat thing is that deep space quilts are made almost entirely free motion with angelina fibers, a little bit of painting, and hot fix crystals.  That means it will mostly be done in Studio Fritz the room where my Bernina Q20 longarm sitdown machine (Fritz) resides.   While the wool project will mostly be done in Studio Gibbs where my Bernina 880 plus  (Odette) lives and where my cutting/painting/whatever island is.  I also plan a bit of needle punching with my little Bernina 350 for which I have the needle punch attachment. That, too, will be part of my book and video projects.

A Word About the Future of the Craft of Sewing

Okay.  I know I said two decisions.  The second one is to figure out the direction for my work for the future. I decided I don’t want to do online live classes like on Zoom, but I will do some hopefully enjoyable videos and put them on YouTube.  I have been and still am a studio artist and this is my main focus.  I did do some local classes at G Street Fabrics, and was kind of considering entering the larger teaching circuit, but that avenue is no longer available at the moment. I had found it so much work and it barely paid me back for the work and expenses I invested in the classes.  I loved it and glad I had the experience, but I won’t be returning to in person teaching.

While I still very much wish to share what I have learned, I am going to do this by writing books and making videos and perhaps the occasional trunk show if invited.  I will continue to work in my slow way toward these goals.

I don’t know if the quilt shows will fully come back for years.  I am going to still make professional show-quality art quilts, and capture the making of them in videos and blogs and books.  If the in-person shows come back, I will then have some to enter just for fun, but I’m not going to stop making them.  I don’t know what I will do with them beyond that and giving them away here and there or selling one every so often and enjoying them myself.

Don’t worry when you hear of shows closing and people changing their current paths in the quilting or sewing world.  The sky is not falling. There even appears to be some new interest in sewing and quilting brought on by people making masks and experimenting with sewing during the pandemic. Sew if you have the opportunity, teach someone to sew even if it is remotely.  As Becky Thompson on her YouTube Vlog Power Tools with Thread likes to say “Go sew something!”