Bring on Fall!

I have some fun and interesting plans for the fall and winter quilting season and have been spending nearly all my working time preparing for them for the past couple of weeks.

First of all, I am preparing for my fall workshops at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, beginning with the first one on Saturday, September 22nd at 11 am!  See more about this on my blog from a few weeks ago here.

So I have all my handouts made and the kits for the first workshop. I almost have all the kits for the second workshop and have made progress on the third workshop.  So when you come, you will have a lot of fun and be able to dive right in to our projects.  You just need to call G Street sewing machine department and sign up!  You can sign up for one or all three.  So much fun to come starting in just a few weeks!  I should finish preparations for these this week and be able to get back to sewing and quilting.

Sew my plans for the fall and winter sewing and quilting season are exciting for me.  As you may know by now, I like to run two or three projects at once to keep me from getting frustrated…hopefully all at different stages along the way.

  • My current quilt project is for my bed, making an applique pattern by Sue Nickels that is really pretty and will add a lot of beauty to my bedroom.  I am about half way through that.  It is not for a show quilt and is just for fun and adding something to my home for me.
  • I am currently working out what my next show quilts will be.  My plans are exciting and two of them involve other people.
    1. My dear friend, student, and what we jokingly call my apprentice Anita has drawn a beautiful scene with a steam locomotive train and gifted it to me for use as a quilt design.  It is full of wonderful things and will be quite fantastic if I can pull it off…trees, rocks, trestles, the locomotive with steam, pulling cars…one with a load of wood. So cool!  Send good thoughts, because this one is a challenge but I plan on starting it soon.
    2. My oldest son, who designed Pendragon, is designing an accompanying piece Excalibur.   Oh I can hardly wait to see his design.  He started earlier but work got so busy for him that he had to lay it aside for awhile.  Things have gotten a little more sane for him now and he thinks he can finish it soon.
    3. Okay, so I am working on my own design(s) also.  I have an array of things I want to do, and am engaged in trying to draw up some of them to choose from for this season.  I am thinking of making one based on polyester satins that I embellish multiple ways to show what can be done with a limited quilt budget (under $100 is my goal).  That design work is not done yet, and I keep oming up with new ideas  with new subjects…I’m currently leaning toward a dark forest with spots of beauty and fun woodland characters, but it could end up entirely something else…spending a little time every day on this.  So it will be a little while before I just get the design sealed down and ready to make.
    4. And then I also want to do another line drawing quilt based on architecture.  I have a couple of possibilities, but I’m still looking.
  • I haven’t forgotten my book.  I have actually made considerable progress on it this summer, and hope to finish it sometime in October.
  • Plus I am wondering just how I can approach the passing on of my many surface design and embellishment techniques.  I have won several ribbons on this aspect of my quilts, and feel I have much to tell you about.  I already have a book outlined and started, but I am thinking of videos.  My son Ken has gotten me all set up to do videos, and I am thinking of making several…some on quilting and some on surface design and embellishment techniques.

I did mention clothes, didn’t I.  I am planning on making a new winter coat this fall.  I found a great pattern that I think I can make with fabrics (and faux fur) I already have..a free and hopefully gorgeous winter coat.  It’s free because I’ve had this fabric for years and properly stored, so it is in great shape.  If you haven’t made an overcoat, it is not really as difficult as making a shirt with a stand collar, really it isn’t.  And using thick winter fabrics is very forgiving, hiding most little mistakes.  I encourage you to try one.  There are some great patterns just out this year.  I also am planning on squeezing in a winter dress suit, yes a pants suit beause my legs just look best that way.  This will challenge me to resurrect my professional tailoring skills, but I have recently lost a couple of dress sizes (though I freely admit that I am still “fat”), and I will make it in a way I can take it up one more size.  I have fabric for that too.

As you see, this year is going to emphasize to myself trying to get all my sewing and quilting done by shopping my stash or keeping costs down while still producing some remarkable pieces.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you are planning to do a lot of sewing and quilting this fall and winter or are encouraging your friends and family who do sew to let their lights shine (and help them make time to sew).  Happy September!

 

Software for Your Fabric Art

Practice painting I did today in Corel Painter

Sew my last couple of posts I’ve talked about the need to learn and practice your machine and quilting.  I don’t know about you, but I also use a lot of software in developing my fabric art.  This, too, requires a bit of practice (nice thing to do when I just want to sit down or am still mulling new ideas around)

I truly appreciate those of you who do everything with pencil, paper, or directly on your fabric.  But one of the things that attracts me to fabric art are the related technologies, and also, I not only find I do a much better job of constructing my pieces when I sketch them all out and print a full sized picture or pattern, but it helps me with a wide variety of decision-making along the way.

I turned mostly to art quilting about a year after my dear Marvin passed in late 2002.  So I’ve been at this now for somewhere around 15 years!  This is astonishing to me.  I have also been quite interested in the tech side of fabric arts for even longer, if you take in in-the-hoop embroidery and computerized machines which I have had now for longer than that.  So I have been collecting software related to my fabric art for a long time, and, while it would be overwhelmingly expensive if purchased all at once, I got it over the years and kept it mostly updated, spreading out the costs.

It started small.  I took a class online from the Pixel Ladies who used Photoshop Elements.  I learned that I could print large patterns using Excel spreadsheets and tape them together.  That opened up the idea to me that I could design my own quilts, quilting designs, and even fabrics using the computer and testing all the colors and placements and so forth without any fabric and stitching to undo or waste in the beginning (note that this saves a lot in the cost of fabrics and threads too).

I also bought Bernina design software when I got my Bernina 200E (I later traded it in for my 830 LE).  I think it was v5 at that time, but not certain.  I skipped everything until I got version 7.0.   I am going to skip the v8 update to save some money because I don’t think the update has sufficient advancement that I use (this does not mean it wouldn’t work for you) on 7.0.  It took me a long time to learn how to use that and very well.  It has some remarkable functions.  I did though, and even nearly finished a book I was writing on learning this program.  It was very close to being done for self publication when they came out with the update, which points out why writing books on software is not particularly the way to go for me.  I take too long to learn it before I can write it.  LOL

From there, I bought Corel Draw, because I found the Bernina software uses a limited version and I wanted all the bells and whistles.  I also added Electric Quilt somewhere along the way years ago.  And then I bought a Wacom drawing tablet that came with a back version of Corel Painter.

Sew there you go….I was off and running and haven’t stopped since.  I’m still learning all this software and probably will always be.  I have found it cheaper to keep it updated at least every other version than let it get old and needing to buy the whole package.  Besides, Corel, especially, gives you some really good buying opportunities once you become their customer, and if you watch carefully, you can often get the updates for much cheaper than the retail price.

Anyway, the point of this is that this year, the year I wasn’t going to buy any new software (heh heh),  I ended up updating everything (except Bernina software), including my Wacom tablet (my old one was 14 years old and had just decided to retire…i.e., it became a paper weight).  And then my son David hooked up his old smaller monitor for me so I have two monitors (really terrific advance and it was free).  So now I have  at my finger tips (and yes, I share it with some of my friends when they come over):

  • Corel Painter 2019 (for painting and fabric design)
  • Corel Draw 2018 (for illustrative drawing, pattern making, and digital work with Bernina design software)
  • Bernina Design v7 (for in-the-hoop embroidery)
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro (for photo editing similar to Adobe Photoshop…I like it better)
  • Electric Quilt 8 (for figuring out how to use a pictorial piece with borders, for designing utility quilts)
  • And several related smaller pieces that came with these items to make them work best.
  • The latest Wacom Intuos Pro tablet with really nice artist’s pen that came with it.  It works with all the above like having a pencil or brush that responds to pressure and turns in some of the programs.

I like Corel because you don’t have to subscribe to it. It also is very powerful, and I can use all the pieces together, and it has great webinars and other tutorials to help you learn it.

So to make a quilt design I might dress up a photo in Photoshop Pro and send it over to Corel Draw for turning pieces into patterns (maybe I liked a flower in the picture, but nothing else), and then to Corel Painter to use as inspiration for fabric pieces and concept design, then put it all together back in Corel Draw where I make a full sized printout or printouts (prepping a fabric file to send to the fabric printing company for larger pieces, for instance).  Then I would maybe design embroidery elements (like lions on the vests in Pendragon or the small wall hangings on the wall).

Now that I have this terrific design setup, for which I am very grateful, I am working to learn it better and practice it more, because I have a ton of ideas how to use all of this.

  1. I am writing a book (or is it three books) on Fabric Art skills that covers everything from the design phase through the making skills, surface design and embellishment, and finishing. It includes patterns, samples, and quilting designs in it (them), and I am hopeful of getting it out by the end of September (but don’t hold your breath).  I’m sure you can see the need for such a setup for this.
  2. In the process I have learned how to make to-size patterns you can print on your regular printer and tape together.  So there will be some of those coming also.
  3. I have already started using digital painting printed on fabrics in my show quilts.  Pendragon has a back castle wall and all the faces that were printed on fabric and used in the construction of the quilt (along with a plethora of other techniques).  I also used a considerable amount of small in-the-hoop embroidery pieces that I digitized myself in Bernina software.

    Pendragon, 34 x 45.  This quilt has been selected for the juried show at IQA Houston this fall.  I’m so excited.

  4. So I am currently working on trying to figure out a design for my next show quilt using this setup.
  5. And finally, well maybe only finally for now, I am thinking of developing a fabric run to assist pictorial/landscape fabric artists and submitting it to fabric companies to see if I can get someone interested in my ideas.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Sew what did I learn from all of the years working with these technologies?  Learn the software, keep it updated more or less, you can skip at least every other update unless they give you a great deal and have a lot of improvements, practice, and use it to help you save money of fabric, thread, and accompanying items, and it can really help you improve over the years…you can keep your records of your struggles too for future reference.

Sew happy everyone!  If you have design software, it can really open new ideas and opportunities for fabric art if you spend a little time learning and practicing them.  Blessings everyone!

 

 

Happy New Year and Planning for a Great 2018

 

Happy New Year everyone!  I really want to thank those of you who read my blog for sticking with me this year.  I am planning on doing more how-tos, reviews, and showing progress on my quilts this year.  I am expecting and declaring that 2018 will be one of the best from start to finish for me, my family, and all my friends. 

I have a lot of fun planned for 2018 and I want to share the quilting/sewing part of it with my readers.  I’m putting this in a list format and we’ll talk more about these over the next few months.

Two Quilt Shows I’m planning to attend.  Will you be there?

  • Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival 22 Feb-27 Feb.  I’m hopeful of having my current quilt in this show.  I’m also hoping one of my friends will be accompanying me.
  • International Quilt Festival in Houston, Nov 7-11.  Again, I am working on a quilt for this show.  We’ll see if I make it on time.  But I also am planning on entering Pendragon in this show.

Classes/Workshops I’m Developing…Not sure where or even if these will happen, but I’ll let you know along the way:

  • Basic free motion quilting for the new sit-down quilter
  • (Intermediate) Organic Free Motion and Other Quilting
  • A Demo-Lecture on Surface Design and Embellishment for Fabric Art
  • Machine Applique…Multiple Methods and When to Use Each One
  • Make a Quilted Bag

Books already started I hope to finish:

  • Quilting for Fabric Art
  • Machine Applique…Multiple Methods and When to Use Each One
  • Surface Design and Embellishment for Fabric Art

And most importantly quilts I am making or hope to make in 2018:

  • The one for MAQF (it’s a secret until after the judging, then I will blog about it)
  • Bayou quilt based on Joel Christopher Paynes artwork I bought the right for one quilt
  • A fourth, and possibly fifth, deep space quilt.  I hope to get the fourth one made for MQX East to celebrate its space theme
  • I have a bunch more show quilts, so we will see what I manage to make beyond the three above.
  • Several utility quilts, including one for my own bed and periodically make up a fast charity quilt.
  • I have dropped two sizes in 2017, still have a long ways to go, but I need to make a few nice new clothing items for me.

Sew Happy in the New Year Everyone!  May your dreams be met, your life be full of love, and your year fun and simply lovely!

By the way, I need some funds to help me keep my dreams for 2018 going, so I am hoping to sell several of my quilts this year to finance my attending the Houston show and keep me in stitches (LOL) and make room in my house for more.  You can see which ones on my website gallery…just scroll over the quilt and you can see the price and size.  Contact me if you are interested in one and maybe we can work something out that suits your budget.  I’ve instituted a lay away plan for the quilts.

 

 

“Oh, you quilt? My Grandmother Quilted…”

quilters blockIt happened again this week…twice!  I had my annual eye exam and this time with a new doctor, because my old eye doctor retired last year.  I also had a doctor’s appointment.  In both places the subject of my quilting came up, and in both places, sure enough, the next words out of the nurses’ mouths was “my grandmother(s) quilted.”  And in one case the next predictable sentence was “I don’t have the patience…”

It’s so predictable it happens nearly every time someone I don’t know well learns that I quilt.  I don’t mind that their grandmothers quilted.  In fact I am glad for their grandmothers and I hope that if they have one of these quilts they care for it like the treasure it is rather than stuffing it in a plastic bag and putting it in the basement storage.  Indeed, my grandmother quilted also.  But since she had 12 children, and all but one lived (or are still alive) to ripe old ages approaching 100, I don’t have any of her quilts.  (I believe some of my more than forty first cousins do.)

Their eyes lose interest if I try to explain that I make wall quilts that are intended as art for the wall or that I am a competition quilter.  I sometimes can’t help myself though. Sometimes I even continue talking even though I can tell they are not interested, or simply don’t understand, and tell them about the types of quilts I make and the equipment I use for it.  But usually, I just smile and make a simple statement that I make art for the wall using fabric, threads, and quilting as my medium and stop trying to impress or explain.  Usually they will start talking to me like some people do to the really extreme elderly…a softened, sweetened voice, and one of the nurses called me “dear.”  I am 69.  If you know my background as someone who worked more than 27 years in a job that took me all over the world to deal with tough situations, you would know how amusing (and slightly annoying) that is to me.

Sew many people today still think that the hand sewn, hand quilted or tied quilt made from clothing scraps and backed by old sheets, and not quite accurately pieced, is the only “real”quilt (indeed, this is what my grandmother’s quilts are like). There are even those who think it is “cheating” to make quilts by machine, or “simply wrong” to paint a quilt. It is clear many have never seen the exquisitely crafted (by hand, machine, and both) quilts of all styles and methods such as can be found in quilt shows today.

Why do I think educating the public about developments in the current quilt industry is important?  I don’t feel I have to defend my current career.  It isn’t going to help and only underscores some people’s view of me as I grow older (“sweet fat old lady”). I do think, however, that we need to attract new quilters.–young, middle aged, older (yes, continuing to attract the older quilt makers is just as important), men, women, and kids–that will help to keep the fabrics, threads, machines, laser lights, embroidery machines, and so on developing and available. Right now we have wonderful supplies for our craft.  And truth be told, I probably have enough to last me the rest of my life in a pinch, but I do hope when I next need a batch of specially colored threads, a particularly interesting piece of fabric, or a new high-tech machine, they will be available, and still available when I reach my nineties and am still quilting.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to quilt, or in the very least, teach someone about quilting today.

 

National Sewing Month…Happy September!

September is National Sewing Month.  I like September for a lot of reasons, and this is just one of them.  It seems like a page-turn in life, almost like a new year and I love to watch the leaves turning from green to purple, orange, red and yellow that starts in September.  I like to turn the page and start afresh in my studio too.

I have four quilts out for shows right now, and I will learn whether any of them placed in mid-September.  I always hope I will get a ribbon, but I think the chances for any of these placing is quite slim, considering all the fabulous quilts in these shows.  Two of these shows are in mid-September:  Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia, which has Sky Horse and Kanazawa Memories and AQS Quilt Week in Chattanooga, which has Canterbury SilkInternational Quilt Festival in Houston, which has Canterbury Knight doesn’t happen until the end of November, but they say they inform the winners that they have won something around mid September.   So if I don’t get any ribbons, which I am always disappointed over even though I tell myself not to be, I can get over that all in the same part of the month and move on.

stash-building-web

Speaking of moving on, this September is bringing the beginning of several fun projects.  I am starting the second in my women keeping the home fires burning while their men were away for work or war throughout history series (I’ve GOT to get a shorter title for this series, and perhaps I need to end it with a modern day man keeping the home fires burning for their woman, but that is a ways away if I even do it). I began this series with “Waiting…”, and then decided it would make a wonderful series.  I have gotten all the fabrics together and a sky painted.  I’m not sure about that sky…I may paint another one. I can’t tell until I have more of the other parts of the quilt made and can put them kind of together.  It’s really kind of a rework of this quilt, but actually is going to be considerably different:

Waiting...

Waiting…

I’m also designing a quilt for Hoffman Challenge 2016 but the fabric isn’t yet available.  They have posted what they will be here.  I like the fabrics this year.  I wasn’t inspired by the choices for the past few years.  So I decided to make a 2016 quilt.

I like to work on two quilts in different phases at once so I can switch between them when I feel like throwing them out of the window.  This is an inevitable phase of making show quilts…I always have at least some point of time I need to leave it alone and work on something else just so I don’t take my scissors to it.  So since I can’t get started on the Hoffman Challenge quilt until the fabrics are available, I am also working on a couple of other quilt designs I have rumbling around in my head right now.  I’ll tell you about them later.

Additionally, this month I’m picking back up my work on two books I’m writing.  One of these is about 80 percent complete, and the other is outlined and I have the first chapter written.  Both require samples and pictures…so I am working on those also.

And finally, I am working on developing a couple of classes to teach locally.  I’ll let you know what those are and how they go when I get them further along.  I’m thinking machine applique for one, and domestic machine quilting for another, but they are very much in the early stages of just thinking about them at this point.  I have the location already worked out.

So happy National Sewing month everyone!  Learn a new technique, practice an old one, or teach someone to sew…your kid, your brother, your cat.  So happy everyone!

 

 

Adjusting My Fabric Arts Business Plan

For some time now I have thought I would monetize my little business by selling downloadable embroidery designs and printable appliques and just toss out a book or a quilt or two for sale every now and then.

I have been working very hard in recent weeks on rebuilding my website, setting up an online shop, and trying to figure out how to place an Amazon associates button on the sidebar in this blog…all designed to bring me a little money so I can keep on making show quilts and  writing blogs.

I have a new plan, which I have just put into action.  I have discovered if I do the downloadable items they will absorb all my time and I don’t enjoy making them like I enjoy making show quilts or writing how-to books and this blog.  Besides, I don’t think ultimately they will bring in enough to pay me for those hours of work I don’t much enjoy.

So if you click to my main website link at the top of this post, you will find several things there:  my gallery of all my main quilts (it runs a little slowly at the moment…I’m working on that), my bio, my current projects list, a list of national/international shows, and a link to my shop.  Take the tour.  I have four quilts currently for sale on my new little shop.  There will be more in the future, along with my books and I may have some other things from time to time.

My new plan is this..1) Make show quilts designed to sell, 2) Show quilts in a couple of shows and get them appraised in their third show 3) By the third show I can generally tell whether it is going to win ribbons or not, so at this point I will start offering it for sale at another couple of shows and on my new little store.   If I somehow miraculously make a big winning quilt, I will probably not sell that one…just keep entering it as long as possible in other shows and use it for trunk shows.

In addition to the quilts, I will continue to write and test the projects in my books and the first of those will be out by the end of October…in time for Christmas…if I possibly can do this.  My son David is going to publish them through his small press “Fennec Fox Press” (the other link at the top of the blog).  In other words…I’m more or less self publishing them, and they will be available on Amazon.

I’m getting help on putting the Amazon associates button on this blog, since I haven’t been able to get that to work yet.  That is where I will recommend the products I have found work best for my techniques and if you click through the button to buy the products I will get a small percentage of the profit.  It may not be much, but every little bit helps and it is a way I can help you to find the products too.

Hopefully, this plan will enable me to bring in a little supplemental income so I can go to shows, buy machines when needed, keep my supplies well stocked, and pay for unexpected items like dentists or home repairs.

It’s a plan.  We’ll see how it works.  Wish me well in this endeavor.

Sew happy everyone!  Cheers.

 

Back at Square One?

Background stippling the central theme

Several things have happened since my last blog that have made me begin to rethink my plans for the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts. First of all, my little online store I had set up proved to not have the ability for me to put downloadable products on it safely for my customers. So I have canceled the store before the free trial month was over. I am, however, somewhat relieved. After I set it up, I realized I had been a little precipitous about starting it up anyway, and need to have more downloadable products ready to sell before I relaunch it.

There have been several other things…some involving oral surgery and so forth…that I won’t go into here, but they do make it more necessary that I succeed in this little micro business that started out just to support my quilting/art habit. It’s a very expensive habit, as you may know, and especially if you are a little geeky and like the really cool new technologies that can be brought into the process.

Sew I am busily working on books and downloadables. As soon as I am ready, and have done a bit more research, I will relaunch. I don’t know how long this will take. I’ll keep you informed. At that time I will have embroidery designs, printable appliques, and quilts for sale. I anticipate the first book following shortly after that.

It’s only a little bit of a shift and reset in my plans, as you see, although you can be sure that I am going to continue on this great fabric arts adventure, even as the road forks and winds. I will continue to make fabric art in the form of wall quilts, and I will continue to experiment with new techniques, try to improve my existing ones, and share the road with you. I hope I can provide some inspiration to others along the way.

Sew happy everyone! Life is an adventure and quilting and fabric arts of all kinds can be a great part of it.

Forks in the Road

Forks in the road--My picture for the Ricky Tims 52 week photo class

Forks in the road:  My Photo from Ricky Tim’s 52 Week photo class

 

Now that I have completed my Canterbury Knight I am going to take a few months off from making show quilts to complete a book and its accompanying projects I have begun.  I also am going to plow into getting the online shop set up for my new micro business “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts”, which will offer short technique videos, downloadable embroidery items for use on landscape quilts, and downloadable print-on-fabric appliques also for use on art quilts.  All I have left to do is get my shopping cart set up, oh, and complete the items for sale.  😀

We’ll see where this leads, but I’m sure it will be fun and I’ll be blogging about the journey at least once a week again.  After I get all that going, I’ll make another show quilt.  Lots of forks in the fabric arts road….:D

Sew happy everyone!