Upcoming Fun Events and the “Leather” Coat Project

Hi everybody!  I have several items of news, which some of you already know about if you read by Facebook posts, but I’ll tell you anyway.

First of all my Embellish This! workshop at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD suffered a delay because on my way to the planned workshop my car quit running.  I was on the toll road and right at an exit that went downhill, which was quite a good thing since I was able to coast off the exit ramp onto a generous grassy side and was completely out of harms way.  Turns out it was some kind of air hose had come disconnected for no known reason and that was all.  But the nice AAA tow truck rescuer towed the car and gave me a ride all the way back to my preferred car repair place and they fixed it for nothing and did the annual checkup at the same time, which revealed I needed new brake pads and a new belt of some kind.  I did get those fixed the next day.  So the new class date is now December 15 and there are still places left, and I would like to fill them.  A full class is a happy class!  This class will be totally fun and result in a top that could be made into a nice wall hanging or pillow for a Christmas present and leaves you with a lot of knowledge of the techniques needed to embellish your projects.

Embellish This! workshop sampler for December 2019 class.

Secondly, I have been, as you know from my past several blogs, making a faux leather, aka “leather” coat for my youngest son David, who is a big and tall man of noble stature.  You can read the past two blogs to get an idea of what this entails, but I will say that it has been the hardest thing I have ever made in my entire sixty plus years of sewing!  And no, it wasn’t difficult just because it is “leather”.  The “leather is fairly easy to sew with, but it is black and slightly shiny and you can’t take anything out if the stitches are going to show.  But I had made the Frankenpattern from three patterns and then did a substantial amount of size changing.

I have only got the hems and the buttons to go on this project. I just had a fitting with David and it looks fabulous, fits perfectly, and I am surprised after all the struggle I had getting it right.  Partly it was difficult because it has been decades since I made anything tailored for a man.  Partly it was difficult because some of the pattern needed so much adjusting.  Partly it was difficult because I made several stupid mistakes (probably lack of practice) that resulted in my having to recut the right front piece along with its pocket pieces, and the collar, which didn’t lay properly (I used the Burda pattern collar and it was probably right if I had been working in wool, but it did not work for “leather”, so I remade it.  But anyway, I am down to the hems and buttons and I am happy.  Only one more day of sewing on it and it will be complete.  I discovered it is hard to work on it beyond 4 or 5 pm  because I have to rely a lot on the light coming in my studio window for this black shiny fabric.  Once the light oustide goes down the artificial light makes it simply too hard to see.  This is why I made the mistake on the front pocket that made me have to remake the front and its pocket, and I was too stubborn to stop sewing.  But I learned the hard way…LOL.

And now for the really fun news.  My quilt The Wizards’ Duel got into Road to California quilt show in Ontario, California, which is relatively close to San Diego where my brother Pat and his wife Carol have one of their homes, and where my nephew Whitlow and his family live.  Now since I had to purchase a new machine the middle of this year (you can read about that in several previous blogs..it was necessary) and have had some additional unexpected expenses this year, I told Pat I was unable to come out to see him and go to the show around that time, but that my quilt had gotten into the show.  The next day, he called me back and let me know that Carol and he were going to give me the plane ticket and most of the expenses for the trip for a nice ten day visit with them!  You could have blown me over with a feather!  He and Carol are going to drive us up to Ontario on Wednesday night before the show and stay all day Thursday and the morning of Friday!  They have been to the show themselves whenever I had a quilt in the show and it will really be fun for us to go together!  So I now have the ticket reservations, we managed to get into one of the preferred hotels, and the tickets for the show.  How about all of that?!  What a lovely present from my dear SIL and brother (it was her idea I was told)!

Wizards’ Duel.  Since this picture I have improved the mountainous rocks in the scene per a judge’s suggestion at MAQF.  I then sent it to PA Nat’l Quilt Extravaganza and it won a blue ribbon (Best Interpretation of Theme) and had wonderful comments from the judges.  R2CA will be the third show it will be shown in.  I entered it into several AQS shows but they rejected it from all of them for unknown reasons.  Perhaps I should have had it rephotographed, because the rocks make a difference and the flash made the bottom scroll work too bright.

So in my blog from Nov 2, I so confidently laid out grand plans for November in which I would do a lot of clothing sewing and end up with a refreshment to my wardrobe and David’s coat.  I had thought David’s coat would take about a week and a half, but it has gobbled up all of November.  These things happen, but now I have to decide whether to keep on with the clothing sewing or go back to quilting and fit the clothes in a little at a time across the winter and early spring.  I think I will do a little bit of both, in light of my trip to California and the fact that I have lost a full size over the past year.  If I make one pair of slacks at least I will greatly improve my traveling wardrobe.  I would also benefit if I could fit in a jacket…either the jeans jacket or the faux suede jacket with lots of embroidery.  I’m inclined to do one of those also.  both have embroidery and would be fun to flaunt at the show.  I KNOW they won’t take very long because the patterns are already fitted and don’t require massive refits.  I looked at my wardrobe and figured I can get by with just the slacks addition.  Sew we’ll see.  Nevertheless, I will still make all the items I listed for my November sewing plans but will spread them out over three or so months in between the quilting because I need them.  BUT, I WANT TO FINISH MY MOM’S MEMORY QUILT!!! LOL Not to mention I want to make several additional show quilts for 2020.  We’ll see how it goes.  And don’t forget, I’m working on books.

Sew happy everyone!  Even if you end up having to struggle through a project, make something wonderful for you or your family.  Stretch your sewing and quilting skills a little further.  Send me pictures and I’ll post some of them here if you would like.  Also, you are free to ask me questions if you run into difficulties.  I know a lot (just a fact, not a brag). LOL

 

 

Project Management for Fabric Art

Since I retired in 2012 to become a full time studio fabric artist, I have found a need to develop a system to keep things organized for time and technique management. Initially, I felt that taking time to keep records cut into my creative time and resembled work too much.  After all, I was here to have fun and make fabric art, right? 😄

Lately, I have added teaching local workshops and for several years have been working on writing several books.

So I found it necessary to figure out a way to keep up with all of this.  In fact, the multi-faceted system I came up with saves time and reduces stress, and some of it is kind of fun. Without records I would spend a lot of time figuring out where I was within a project, what was next, and making mistakes I would not have made if I had notes I could refer to.  This is especially important if there is an interruption in a specific project and I have a gap of time, or if I am working on more than one project at a time, which I often do (a show quilt, an approaching teaching session, a bit of writing, and even something just for me like clothing or my current bed quilt project).

My daughter-in-law Beth, who is also a quilter and a computer professional, suggested I look into www.Trello.com, which is a free organizational program designed for businesses. I find this program very easy to use and set up.  It helps me keep up with project ideas and a general overview of where I am on each project, and you can put in a check list.  It’s especially nice when I am doing a project with another person. Beth and I set up a team “Board” of Tatum Quilters so we could share projects.  We haven’t done much in that direction, but we still talk about it from time to time…LOL  So you might want to check it out.

While Trello helps me keep up with my ideas and plans for quilts, I found I need more detailed information and some of that doesn’t fit into a computerized file.  So I also have my big black low tech notebook.  I use this from the very beginning of a project and also keep other information in it. I write up ideas, make a general overall plan, keep tiny samples of fabrics, lists of threads, and other supplies, and put records of everything I need in this book for keeping my project together. The following images may give you an idea for your own notebook.

Here I have the original design of the Renaissance banner my BFF Anita and I made for the church last year. This is her original design.  I added notes, and a list of the fabrics I ordered for the project.  I just stapled her original drawing in to the notebook since it fit.  If such a design doesn’t fit, I sometimes fold it one or two times and staple it in.

 

So here is the finished design after I put it into the computer and drew a pattern for us, making a few changes we discussed along the way. On the right side is a plan for making the quilt from start to finish, which we checked off as we completed it.  I just printed a page size of the pattern and stapled it in on one page.

 

Sometimes I just staple drawings into the book to keep them from getting lost. This is my train project I am about to start working on.  The one on the left is a copy of the drawing my BFF Anita did for me to use for this, and the one on the right has a few scribbly additions I did thinking about how I might make it.  I have pages after this with a brief list of steps to make this quilt and have space for notes on stitches, settings, etc. for my machine work.

 

Here I have the samples of the fabrics and a list of the threads for Pendragon. Ken (oldest son) and Beth (his wife) gave me this wonderful addition to my stash along with the design for Pendragon that Ken drew. Pendragon was such a major project requiring many advanced techniques I had to develop or had never used it has ten pages in my black book that includes all kinds of things related to it.

 

Here is my trial of the upper left corner of Pendragon. I digitized the outline of the ancient design for stitching just the outline in the hoop, which needed a lot of fixing.  So I had to do a stitchout before putting it on the quilt. I also wanted to try the painting to see how that would go. So I just stapled the sample into the book because I liked it and didn’t want to throw it away.  If you look hard, you can see on the right a very loose sketch of how the quilt pieces fit together.

If you’d like to learn more about Pendragon, I have several blogs in which I included the making of this extensive project.  The testing of borders and the making of Pendragon.  So as you see, I also keep what you might think of as progress reports in this blog.

You might think that would be enough record keeping, but when I started doing show quilts that went to several shows, and sometimes had multiple quilts out for shows or exhibits, I found I had to make sure I knew where they were or were going.  I needed to be careful that I didn’t enter the same quilt in a show that was being held at the same time another show that I had entered was held, or enter it into this year’s shows when they had already been shown or rejected from another year’s show (Just as a matter of principal, I never reenter a show that has rejected my quilt previously even if they accept this kind of entry).  And I found I can’t enter another Mancuso show if the quilt has received a ribbon in another Mancuso show.  So it became a kind of choreograph of the dance of the quilts.

I take care of this with a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with two spreadsheets.  One keeps up with what shows that I am interested in and the deadline dates.  The other spreadsheet keeps up with what has been where or entered where, with a simple asterisk if it placed in that show.  I include an example of my workbook here.  I don’t know if it will work on your computer or if it is anything you might want, but it was easy to include if it works for you and you are into show quilting.

Quilt Show List example

Sew there you are.  Yes, it is a complex four part system, but it also works well for me and so I wanted to share it.  Believe it or not, it saves more time than it spends to do this, especially after getting started with it all, and it really helps keep down the stress factors in my busy busy studio. One more thing, I put on my calendar when a quilt has to be shipped once they are accepted into a show.  I have occassionally waked up and wondered if I had missed a deadline, only to be happy to find I had not by looking on my calendar.

Sew happy everyone!  Try making a show quilt or a master quilt, even if you don’t want to show it.  You might want to keep your own records, with lots of pictures along the way (oh and yes, I have computer files with folders by the year for quilts made in that year.  Yes, I back up everything).  It will be fun to look back on it or if you want to remember how in the world you did that technique on that quilt some years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Book, Christmas, and Thoughts about 2019

Hi Gentle Readers.  I hope you are having a lot of fun and sometimes actually managing to get into your studio or wherever  and play or write, or whatever you do for enjoyment and relaxation.  I have almost gotten my book Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v7 Effectiveness ready to publish.  I still have to take two photographs and insert them, plus come up with the cover and the front material.  Sew I’m thinking this will be available sometime in January 2019 for you to purchase from Amazon.  I am self-publishing this book through Amazon’s KDP print on demand company with the valuable assistance of my sons and daughter-in-law.  It is about 90 pages long and jam packed full of illustrations and step-by-step instructions that, if you do them all, will leave you with considerable improvement in your proficiency in digitizing in-the-hoop embroidery in this software.

Yes, I know that v8 is already out.  But one of my best friends convinced me that there are enough people still using the v7 design software, or that have it and never could figure it out, that it is worth publishing anyway.  And then…I plan on doing an updated book for Bernina v8.  Hopefully, I can get that out before they come out with v9!!!

Formatting the book for publication to KDP specifications has taken me considerable time, but it is mostly done.  I hope to completely finish and do a final read over by the end of the year at the very least.  Maybe somebody will buy it.  That would really make me happy.  And yes, I have permission from Bernina to do this.  Well, actually, they said I don’t need their permission as long as I don’t claim it is through Bernina that I am doing this.  But not wanting to get into trouble with one of my favorite companies I asked.

Believe it or not I am ready for Christmas.  I have all my shopping done, and David (my youngest son) and I got all the decorations up already.  There have been years I didn’t get them up until the day before Christmas Eve, back when Marvin was alive and we did a lot of singing for Christmas.  Some years when the kids were small, and we did a lot of singing, we didn’t get our Christmas shopping done until a few days before Christmas.  Back then, at least, the malls had great sales at that time and we found everything we wanted despite the lateness of the time.  Now I just do it all online and it saves enormous time.

Memories float up as I open the Christmas decorations and the time approaches to celebrate the Lord’s birth.  Marvin and my parents have all departed this earth along with many of my favorite cousins, and all my twelve uncles and aunts. So it is a sweet time of happy musical memories, full of sparkle and light.  I fully believe in the hereafter you see, and sometimes believe I can feel their presence too.  I love Christmas and its memories.  My kids live nearby and my only grandchild, Kevin, is 15 this year and he is nearby too.  I am truly blessed.

I have started to wonder what 2019 will bring for Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts.  I know I have four workshops I am going to teach at G Street Fabrics in April and May.  I am going to Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in late February/early March, and I have plans for other books and other quilts.  I have “Night on the Bayou” in Road to California in January, and I have entered that one and “The Wizard’s Duel” in several additional shows, so we will see what happens there.

I am thinking of giving up competition quilting in 2020.  I have spent much time and effort doing these quilts and won a few ribbons, learned a huge amount, and want to share what I have learned.  I get frustrated when I get annoying or confusing feedback from the judges, and also when I get great feedback and no ribbon.  Both happen.  I don’t blame the judges.  They are faced with a huge job and little time to do it in. I have gotten some wonderful feedback that helped me improve a quilt or my next quilt too.  I still have not won a really top ribbon yet.  That is kind of a goal of mine I would still love to reach.  At this point, I normally (but not quite always) get into the shows I enter, and I sometimes win a lower level ribbon.  Is it still worth it to spend the time, money, shipping, anxiety, and so forth entering shows, or should I concentrate on writing and making quilts and samples for the books and maybe even come up with some that will sell?  I don’t know.  I have a few more show quilts I want to make, and will decide then, or I may just veer off and make quilts I would love to make that are really off the wall and only enter them if they end up something that might really work and not if they are not there.  I also am making a bed quilt for my bed.  It’s high time I get rid of that old box store coverlet I have had for decades.

I am already experimenting with a variety of additional techniques that can help me produce some interesting looks…like yarn and cord couching, 12 wt thread stitching, developing quilts using some of those fabulous fabric panels, and seeing if I can make my digitized in-the-hoop embroidery produce some unusual things…three dimensional insects or animals, for instance…or maybe needle punched bears roaming a deep woods, or discover ways to use my machine in other ways to create hand looks.  But what would I do with it if I don’t compete?!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Take your work to the next dimension and have fun doing it!  Merry Christmas!!!!!

 

Report on Quilts Back Home from PNQE

Last Tuesday my two quilts that were in Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza came home.  As you probably know by now Wizards’ Duel got a blue ribbon as Best Interpretation of Theme and Night on the Bayou did not place.  PNQE is a Mancuso show and they usually provide comments that are often helpful and sometimes just a little depressing.  This time, I got wonderful comments on both quilts and I wanted to share with you, gentle readers.

Wizards’ Duel

For this quilt I placed it in the Innovative category.  They don’t have an all art-quilt or all pictorial quilt category.

(E=Excellent S=Satisfactory N=Needs Improvement NA=Not Applicable)

I got all Es for their set items:

DESIGN

  • Artistic Impression/Graphic Impact
  • Use of Design/Pattern in Quilt Top -balance, proportion, scale – balance, proportion, scale
  • Use of Color & Fabric – pleasing, value contrast, scale of fabric
  • Degree of Difficulty
  • Quilting Design – enhances top, is sufficient
  • Innovation/Creativity

WORKMANSHIP

  • Piecing/Applique – precision, stitches, shadow-through
  • Quilting Technique – even stitches, making stops and starts

Best Features of this Quilt (handwritten comments)

Visual impact of radiating center. Very innovative use of embellishments.  Good interpretation of theme

Areas that needs improvement (handwritten comment)

Nothing!

Ok, so I don’t think I have ever had a quilt where judges’ comments are provided that actually said “Nothing!” for areas that need improvement.  Here is where I have often managed to save a quilt to go on to other shows that made them place.  Indeed, this very quilt was shown at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival and my quilting and treatment of the rocks was called down as needing improvement. So I improved them between shows, and it clearly paid off.  Sometimes I disagree with judges’ comments and in such cases dismiss the comment.  This would be when my artistic opinion conflicts with theirs, but I have also gotten really good and helpful advice from such suggestions.  Judges for this quilt were Augusta Cole and Marjan Kluepfel

Night on the Bayou

For this quilt I placed it in the Wall Quilt category and the grade sheet had the same categories and grading system, except the judges wrote in G=Very Good and gave me all Gs on all the categories!!!  Harrrumph!  Not only did they choose the nonexistent G for all the categories, their grades seemed to compete a bit with their comments. See what you think.

Best Features of this Quilt (handwritten comments)

  •  Absolutely LOVE the moss hanging from the trees!! Beautifully executed
  • Well chosen quilting designs enhance visual texture of tress vs water vs sky
  • Splotches of orange lights prevent monotony from happening

Areas that needs improvement (handwritten comments)

  • Some surface distortion noted [I can probably fix this with a new and better blocking and hopefully dryer and cooler weather for future shipping…I think it was caused by the hot very humid weather for shipment, coupled with the heavy yarn and thread treatments]
  • Perspective is good but not quite perfect [uhhh…artistic opinion and I submit that art quilting in particular is never “perfect” anywhere. She might have been more impressed if I had been able to get more moonlight filtering through the trees as my friend who attended the show suggested.  I’ll see if I can accomplish that before sending it out again. For the most part, the paint just sinks into the quilt on this fabric]

Sew what do you think about this?  I was really pleased, even with the comments on the Bayou quilt.  I was not pleased with having a whole scale special grade that was less than “excellent” on all the categories and that then conflicted with some of the comments. I can only think at least one of the judges is a person who has a really hard time rating anything as “perfect”.  I can guess which judge this came from, but will not say.  The judges for this quilt were Dierdra McElroy and Bobbie Bergquist

If you look up all four judges you will find that none of them are art or pictorial quilters.  They are all four traditional and a couple specialize in hand quilting, which should tell you something about how far they had to stretch their view of quilts to make a judgement call on the art and pictorial quilts and therefore, I think they did a fine job.  All four of them.  It’s a hard job when faced with such fabulous quilts throughout a national or international show.

Sew overall, I am happy, and now believe both quilts have the potential to bring in some nice ribbons from future shows.  I’m going to have to do some choreography in placing them.  Houston rejected Wizards’ Duel, but that was before I fixed the rocks.  I think perhaps I need a new set of pictures for both of them.  Pictures make a big difference in what a show will take.

Sew happy everyone! I wish you fun in your studio or office and that you be surrounded with love.

 

 

The Wizards’ Duel

The Wizard’s Duel

I promised you all that I would write about this quilt after Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival.  I had a wonderful time going to the show with one of my best friends Mei-Ling Huang.  Mei-Ling is a lot of fun and we share many interests.  She claims not to be a quilter, but I have seen her quilting on the Bernina Q24 longarm set up in her Bernina shop at G Street Fabrics where she is the Bernina dealer.  But she is a long-term sewist and she does make beautiful garments.  Currently, I happen to know that she is working on a t-shirt quilt for her daughter, who is in medical school.  She was clearly fascinated by the goings on at MAQF and we enjoyed very much the class we took together from Sue Nickels on Stitched Raw Edge Applique.  I found the class a perfect example of how to organize and run a class as well as really enjoying the applique instruction,

Sew the picture above is my completed quilt and I got the judges comments back yesterday.  They have marking grades on standard criteria.  It fared very well, getting all top marks (E for Excellent) except for degree of difficulty and that was S for Satisfactory.

Judge 1 commented:

  • Powerful color impression
  • Ambitious Subject Matter
  • Nice use of crystals

Judge 2 commented:

  • Batting a bit too puffy [Huh?!!!]
  • So much care in the figures.  Rocks would benefit from same attention

Judges:  Esterita Austin, Pepper Cory, Marjan Kluepfel

I don’t know which judge had which comments section, though I do know that they weren’t Pepper (a friend of mine), who just signed it.  After looking at it objectively, I happen to agree with the comment about the rocks and plan on adding some additional quilting and maybe a litle more highlighting before I send it out again.  Not sure I agree on degree of difficulty, but seeing some of the other quilts there I am pretty pleased with these marks overall, which is rare when I get my judges comments back.  I am a little puzzled about the batting a bit too puffy comment, but to each his own.  Maybe it had to do with the rocks.

When I am done with a quilt I like to look back at the original concept and see how far away I wandered in the making of the quilt.  Here is the finished concept art, though I did go through a number of other versions along the way.

concept art for Wizards’ Duel

And here are some detail photos of the quilt.  I hope you can see all of the quilting.  I had loads of fun with that turbulent sky full of characters,  I have a Pegasus in this shot.  Go up and look at the full quilt and see if you can find the Phoenix, the small flying bird, a starry kind of symbol like I used in the corners, and the little bit of free motion feather design at the corner near the raven.  I also free motioned and straight ruler stitched the explosion of light (is that a sun?  I think so) behind the wizards.

Detail shot one

And here is detail shot two…on this you may think you see a row of flying geese, but that’s not what they are.  In my mind’s eye these are a row of flying pterodactyls!  Hahaha.  I hopeyou can see these, I know it’s kind of hard to see.  Also pay attention to the border.  This quilt is the first one where I used ruler work extensively. I used a strip of paper that was the exact length of the border and folded it until I got the divisions perfect (no math method) and marked the grid on the border, then used my rulers to quilt the design without additional design marking.  Then I just bubble stitched where it needed filling.  I was pleased with the results.

I will tell you that the biggest challenge was coming up with the figures.  I started with prepared for dye cotton fabric and marked the figures on with a simple Fons and Porter dark marking pencil.  Then I colored them using Neocolor water soluble paint crayons and brushed them with water. After that I ironed them dry, thereby heat setting them, and then I placed a bit of wool batting behind the dragon and stitched the outline and the scales.  After that I used some oil paint sticks to burnish the scales of the dragon a little.  Then I thread painted their garments with Superior metallic threads using my BerninaQ20 longarm sitdown.  Finally, I appliqued them to the quilt top.  After sandwiching them, I quilted the figures sections with Superior Monopoly thread, but that was the only place I used monopoly.  I didn’t want to interfere with the thread painting I had done, but they needed quilting for depth of character.  I wonder if the judges realized the difficulty involved there.  Perhaps they did.

And finally, here is a very good picture of the quilt hanging in the show that my friend Cathy Wiggins took.  I think it shows the quilting clearly…in fact the show had it lit just perfectly so the quilting showed well.

Wizards’ Duel at MAQF courtesy of Cathy Wiggins

The quilts at the quilt show were unbelievably magnificent.  I do think Wizards’ Duel stands up well in such a show, even if it didn’t receive a ribbon.  As I said, I plan on adding some quilting and highlighting on the rocks section and entering it in other shows.  Maybe it will place after that.  It’s very hard to place in such a show.  The MAQF is becoming a very important and popular show and for good reason…it is fabulous.

Mei-Ling and I attended the fashion show too and spent some time viewing the wearable art competition section at the show.  We were so inspired by this that we decided to try to make a joint entry for the wearable art next year.  Mei-Ling is a small beautifully proportioned woman and we will make it to fit her.  More on that much later.

I came home to find a chipmunk had invaded our home…he came in about an hour after I got home.  That is another story that is still going on .  He’s still here and in one of my studio rooms.  My studio is on the upper level of my town home where my bedroom also is.  It consists of two small bedrooms…Studio Fritz (where my computer/office section is and where my Bernina Q20, named Fritz, sits), Studio Gibbs (where my main fabric, thread, and paint stash, my work tables, and my Bernina 830LE named Gibbs sits), and Studio Betsy (one small side of my bedroom where my Bernina 350 named E. Claire sits where my old Bernina 1230 named Betsy used to sit.  I sold Betsy recently to my student and friend Anita).  The chipmunk has taken up residence in Studio Gibbs (thank goodness not my bedroom!).  So far, the only damage he’s done is knock things over and deposit chipmunk poop in places.  The stash is safely in drawers and the closet where he can’t get to chew or soil and Gibbs is of no interest to him so far.  I am soooooo hopeful of getting him out of there today.  I have a live trap set for him and have tried multiple things, and am trying once more today with the trap and all.  I need my studio back.  I never had this happen before.  Please pray for a successful removal of the chipmunk.  Silly me, I name everything, even a chipmunk I may end up killing…this one is Chippy.  I am so hopeful of not having to kill it to get it out of there.

Sew happy everyone!  You know you can get a basket like device to attach over your dryer vent so chipmunks can’t get in and chew holes in your dryer vent hose.  My son just installed one on our house.  I wish we had done it earlier!!!!

 

On Creativity and Competition

Last night I watched the truly magical performance of the short program in men’s figure skating by Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. He’s simply magnificent.  Indeed, I find it difficult to find the words to describe his sparkling performance that comes after a career threatening injury just months ago.  Such performances by leading artists are gifts to those who have a chance to see them.  I remember one magical violin concert by Joshua Bell that Marvin and I attended in Istanbul in the ancient and fabulous Hagia Sophia years ago.  It remains a particularly special memory as I look back over my life with Marvin…a wonderful gift to us.

There is a certain similarity between performance art,  tangible art and its subcategory of fabric art.  It’s the ability to stir the mind and touch the heart.  It’s the pulling of the resulting piece out of the mind, heart, hard work, and training that goes into the making of a quilt no matter the category.  This can be seen at major quilt shows or quilt museums when you walk by the exquisite jewels of quilts…every competitive year tougher and more accomplished than the year before as quilters grow in the techniques and understanding of design.

I retired early in 2012 from an interesting, but fairly intense job, to work full time in fabric arts–fabric, thread, surface design, and embellishment–to create beautiful, interesting, fun, or impactful fabric art that touches the heart and mind of the viewer or even makes them laugh.  I was pretty arrogant in the early years, thinking I could make anything and was just as good as those who won big time ribbons.  I was sure it was only a matter of time before I reached that level.  I’m more hopeful than arrogant these days.

It has been just over five years now since retirement and ten since I seriously turned to fabric art, and more or less 65 years since I started sewing.  Looking back I find that I am even more interested in this fascinating activity than I was when I first began years ago.  I love it and I have developed as a studio artist in recent years,   I realize only a very few manage to get to the top and it may not be me, but I still keep on making art.  I belong in my studio studying new ways to do things, designing new pieces, and making them.  I occasionally venture out to teach locally and I even have a student, or maybe she is really an apprentice, who is also one of my best friends.  It is exciting and sometimes I get to meet or virtually befriend other fabric artists/quilters whose work, or teaching, or writing is very inspiring and who have encouraged me along the way.

Next week I am going down to Hampton, Virginia, to the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, which in my humble opinion is becoming one of the important shows in the country.  I have a fun quilt in the show.  I had not originally planned to make this quilt, but decided to make one at nearly the last minute starting in November.   That is about as late as I could have expected to complete it by the deadline, but I decided anyway to add this quilt into my 2018 quilting plans.  I have already worked out my plans for 2018, but I realized I didn’t have any quilt to enter into MAQF, and that I was going to go.

I had some special encouragement from my friends, particularly Lisa Calle, who was also struggling to finish a quilt she had been working on for four years in time to get it in the show.  So we helped each other not give up and keep on despite the various bumps in the road.  Both of us got our quilts in the show.  I’m so looking forward to seeing hers.

I would be surprised if my quilt makes a ribbon, mostly because I’m a little unsure of the both the overall design and the quilting design, but it was a delight to make.  I honestly cannot tell whether it is really good or I just like it.  At some points in the process I didn’t even like it myself.  I like it now, and I can hardly wait to show you photographs and tell you more about the making of it after the judging takes place.

I have been competing since 2004, when I entered my first Hoffman Challenge quilt.

It is a sweet little quilt with a Japanese fan theme and I learned much making it, and it got in and toured.  Today, I try to get my quilts into various shows primarily to share my work with people.  I make them because they are there in my mind and heart and for people to see and I make them to have fun. I have sold a few, and I’d like to sell more of them, but they don’t sell well.  I would like to sell enough to pay for my quilting habit and to go to a big show like Houston or Paducah every now and again.

But it is also true that I am a true competitor.  I want my work to be historically artistic and breathtaking and to be a gift to those who see it even if they don’t end up possessing it, I look back over my older quilts and can see true progression in my work, but there are parts in some of them that are surprisingly really good.

After all my years of sewing and all the recent years of working really hard to improve my techniques and, more recently, to improve my design and my quitling, I now fully believe my work is deserving of getting into the shows and even placing beside the winners, but I am realistic in realizing that my work does not always touch the hearts of the judges even if it touches those of some of the viewers.  It is different.  It is possibly not even what some would call “a quilt” because it is not a warm snuggly thing to warm a person on a cold night or wrap oneself in to gain comfort.  It is to hang on a wall and to look at.  The subject and the design may be pleasing to me, but it may not be understood or at least understood to be the best in a given category by a judge.  Maybe they can’t see what depths of technique and new ideas were placed in the piece or how much I had to pull out of myself to make a quilt. Here is Pendragon which was in MAQF last year.  It did not place there, but it did make a 3rd place ribbon at Paducah fall show.

Pendragon
34 x 45

Maybe some pictorial element I did in a quilt free motion is well done enough they think it is done by computerized machine work, or maybe they see flaws in colors and values and design elements that I would not consider as a flaw because it’s what I like, or I really didn’t see it or even saw it and ignored it.  But there is always that chance, however slight, that the judges will decide it is really really good…maybe even the top of its category.  And maybe there will be no ribbon, but I will be honored to have the quilt in the show and my friends see it who have encouraged me along the way.

Just last Sunday I took a class from Bethanne Nemish at Birds of a Feather, who made the point that the competition is getting tougher all the time, and she’s right.  What would have won ten years ago would not win today, and may not even get in, because the quilting art continues to get better all the time.  Is there a peak?  I don’t think so…not exactly anyway, because quilting will continue to evolve and new techniques, new designs, and even new styles will continue to emerge as long as there is a competitive field on which to show it.  But it is still worth competing.  As Bethanne pointed out in her class, you will be better, you will stretch yourself and you will learn.  It is well worth competing even if you really, in truth, haven’t got a chance at getting a big ribbon.  You need not feel depressed if you don’t win anything.  Besides, you may give someone who really needs it a gift, by lifting their hearts and inspiring their minds.

Besides, it’s amazing that a seventy year old person can compete in a major show alongside the young quilters already at the top.   I expect to continue for a while…don’t know how long…maybe a couple of years, maybe a couple of decades.  (Chuckle)

Sew happy everyone.  See you at MAQF or elsewhere.

 

Embellishing Techniques Part 2: Machine embroidery

I’m getting really excited about the upcoming Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival, 22-25 Feb.  One of my best friends, Mei Ling,  is going with me.  We share a love of Berninas, quilting, and sewing.  Several of my other friends will be there and Mei Ling and I are both going to the Fashion Show and taking a class with Sue Nickles on applique.  Yes, I could teach a class on machine stitched applique, but Sue is the very best and I always learn things when I go to a class.  It’s mainly just fun for me to be there with a bunch of others who love fabric arts whether I already know how to do something or not.  Plus my latest quilt, which has some free motion and one small piece of in-the-hoop machine embroidery on it, will be in the show!  Sorry, you still have to wait until the judging takes place for MAQF and then I will share the quilt with you.  I’ll blog about the quilt when I get home from the show.

An aside:  Last night, the day before it started, my son pointed out to me that Birds of a Feather quilting workshop event moved to Herndon, VA, twelve minutes away from my home this year.  I had just assumed it was still in Williamsburg this year (see what assuming does for you….lol).  So today I went over to see if I could grab a few classes and I caught something I wanted to see very badly, which was Bethanne Nemesh demonstrating yarn couching on a longarm, which she has been developing lately.  I spent about ten minutes talking with her about it and she gave me a few hints, letting me try my hand at it.  It was worth a whole workshop for me even though it was just a few minutes.  I also managed to meet Gina Perks.  And I signed up for three shorter classes from those two notable quilters.

Sew what am I doing now?  Well, I’m preparing to go the MAQF show, making a vest and tote bag and gathering the items needed for Sue’s class. The vest is reversible. It has this delightful tropical birds and plants on a black background print on one side, and the other is a slightly textured solid fabric that I have embroidered some pretty flourishes on the back and fronts.

Which leads me to the supposed topic of this blog…decorative stitches and machine embroidery for embellishing quilts and wearable fabric art. Over the years I have used a lot of machine embroidery…both free motion and machine generated. I have found some things to know about that you may already be aware of, but I found out my student/apprentice Anita has never heard about. Sew I decided to summarize briefly a few pointers here for successful machine embroidery of all types.  I am including this information in a more expanded version in my current book I’m working on about surface design and embellishment.

Thread choice makes a very big difference in getting the look you want when doing machine embroidery.  Choosing  those threads requires some thought and a bit of readily available education.  Mind you, this takes a little time and practice and testing at first, but once you get it in your head you can do this quickly:

  1. Decide if you want a shiny or matt finish thread
    • Rayon is shinier than polyester, though some polys are pretty shiny too and make wonderful bird feathers or flowers or shiny objects or…well you get the idea.
    • Cotton is mat finished and makes great trees or grasses or sinks into the background just a bit when you want it to,
    • Wool is very interesting and is great for coats of furry animals or tree trunks, and when you want the look to be more hand-like because you are doing a folk art piece.
    • Silk can be both shiny or mat.  Silk is really versatile, but finding the silk threads you have in mind can be somewhat difficult.
  2. Look at several websites of thread companies and learn about what’s available and what they do.  A lot of them have some really good educational information there.  Every new little bit I learn about threads helps my next project.  It shows up in surprising ways.  Sew I encourage you to take some time with these interesting links:
  3. After looking at these sites and playing around with threads, you will better understand thread quality and weights.  If possible, obtain a bit of the threads you are interested in  and do samples to test how they work with the design you are planning to use on the fabric you plan to use.

Well, this is getting pretty long, and I still have much to say, even in a “brief” summary about machine embroidery, so I will stop here and continue in my next blog with a word about stabilizers and how to remove a heavily machine embroidered mistake.  Then maybe another blog with pictures.

Sew happy everyone!  Go learn about some threads.  There is much to learn.

By the way, I have many of my quilts for sale on my website.  You can see them here.  I really want to go to Houston and keep on writing this blog and that is where the money would go.  If you are interested in one of my quilts, contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com  Or, if you just want to help support the continuance of the blog, see the donate button.  But please keep reading my blog even if you don’t.

 

Embellishing Techniques Part 1: Hot Fix Crystals

My close friends and competitors…sometimes one in the same…know that I love embellishing my art quilts.  Some quilts simply call for embellishments and, when this is true, I use them generously.  This subject recently came up in a Facebook conversation and so I thought I would run a series of three or so blog posts, not necessarily one right after the other, on my embellishment techniques.  You may have others or your techniques may vary, but these are mine.  I’m always looking for new ideas though, so comment freely please.

My love for embelishments 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.  Today I will hand sew some things still, but I use a lot of hot fix crystals and machine techniques that I will talk about in future posts.

When I first started using hot fix crystals  years ago I bought one of those wand style irons.  I still use it by the way, but I’m thinking of replacing it and maybe I can get one that doesn’t flip off the table and land on the carpet and I have to race to pick it up before it burns it…hoping not to burn myself in the process.  It’s supposed to pick up the crystal and you can then place it down, but it never really worked well that way.  Sometimes it would pick it up and hold on to it, so I had to get a straight pin and pry it out.

So I started placing the crystal down where I wanted it and placing the wand iron on top of it. If I was lucky, the crystal would end up in the right place (though I found I could move it slightly if I worked quickly enough).  Sometimes the wand would flip the crystal out of place like a tiddly wink and it would go spinning through the air landing who knows where.  Sometimes I ended up slightly burning the area around the crystal.  And sometimes I ended up burning myself trying to prevent all these things.

And THEN, a friend of mine directed me to hot fix transfer tape! What a great invention and what a wonderful improvement to my crystal placements!!! I think it was invented for people who make those crystal designs for people to put on their clothes.  But anyway, here are the steps I use with it:

  1. Put on your music or audiobook.
  2. 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. Working in sections, place your hot fix crystals (or other hot fix embellishments) where you want them
  5. Remove the backing from the transfer tape.
  6. Gently and carefully lower your transfer tape piece 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. Now here you have a choice.  You can either use your regular iron set hot and without steam or the wand iron.  I found the wand iron makes the crystals more secure for the most part but takes longer.
  8. So with the wand iron heat each crystal with the tape still in place for as long as it needs
    • tiny ones require about 12 toe taps or slow counts.
    • medium ones require about 20 counts
    • larger ones require more…30 seconds to 40 counts to be really secure.

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

The transfer tape 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.

Another way to approach it is to place lots of crystals on the tape upside down 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.

Now if I can only stop my hot wand from falling off the table that would be good.  Maybe I can find a new one at Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival that I am going to this year with my good friend Mei Ling…I’m so excited.  I’ll let you know if my quilt gets in.  Will I see you there?

Sew happy everyone!  Help each other out, encourage other quilt artists…both the beginners and the very advanced.  Even the big winners sometimes need encouragement.

By the way, I have many of my quilts for sale on my website.  You can see them here.  I really want to go to Houston and keep on writing this blog and that is where the money would go.  If you are interested in one of my quilts, contact me at BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com  Or, if you just want to help support the continuance of the blog, see the donate button.  But please keep reading my blog even if you don’t…I understand.

Sunday Musings on Quilts

I don’t have a large number of ribbons from the big shows like some of my quilty friends do, but I do have a few.  Several of them center around surface design, color choice, and embellishment.  I got to thinking about that recently and  I decided that I am really more of a fiber artist than I am a quilter and wondering if that impactsthe ribbon worthiness of my quilts.  True, I have struggled to learn the things one must pay attention to as a competition quilter, such as nice square corners and even quilting, but I am far more interested in the overall look of the art of my show work than I am the overall quilting techniques.  When i am doing the actual quilting, I might take a more organic freestyle pattern over a more formal design pattern simply because I think it corresponds best to my quilts.  One of my quilts recently received “quilting needs to improve” from a judge, when I was thinking it was one of my best results because it looked like the wind to me.  Maybe that’s not what they meant.  I don’t know.  I wish they had said what they meant.

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 “Quilting needs to be improved.” Original design by BJ

Sky quilting

I regard “making a quilt” as an entirely different activity than “making an art quilt” or to the extreme of “making a competition art quilt”.  I love warm cuddly love-filled quilts that one can curl up in, drape over a lap, eat a picnic on, give to your pet, or cover your bed with.  I enjoy making them.  I just would never make one for a competition quilt.  Why, you ask?  Well, because I am not that good at it.  I have been to enough quilt shows to see those fabulous traditional or even contemporary perfections.  But I am really good at making a piece of fabric art in the form of a wall quilt. Still, I do make snuggle quilts, but I usually use only piecing and applique and perhaps a little bit of embroidery.  My points aren’t always good, and things just never quite look right, but they are fun and pretty.

I love joining my computer art, hand painted art, thread painted art, composition fun, color play, and even my love of history or space together in a piece of quilted art for the wall.  In my enthusiasm to get the look I want, I draw from whatever technique I think will work, sometimes resulting in a project with piecing, applique, hand painting, digital art on fabric, thread painting, machine embroidery, quilting, beading, hot fix crystals, and some additional elements on one single piece.  Does it work?  Well, it works for me, not always for judges, apparently.  LOL

detail from one of my deep space quilts with Angelina Fibers and hot fix crystals quilted over a lightly painted background.

Sew what do you think?  Is a piece of quilted wall art actually a quilt?

Sew happy everyone!  Make that quilted piece you love.  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkuh!

 

 

 

 

Decided to Make an Additional Show Quilt

I’m working on a new show quilt with a January 23rd deadline.  I started it too late, so it will be a bit of a race to finish on time.  But the thing is, I am really having fun making it.  I am making it mainly so I have something to enter into Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival because I suddenly realized I had nothing for that show and I have already made arrangements to go to it.  I won’t be sharing pictures or descriptions about it until after its debut.  I put aside the Bayou quilt I am making for a while, because the deadline for it is months later next summer.  This new quilt is going together mostly just from my idea and directly on the quilt, because I wanted to keep the design time very short.  I just made a concept sketch and plunged in, using fabrics I already had on hand and, surprisingly, I have already made a fair amount of progress.  I had an interesting idea for it that required one piece of fabric I didn’t have, so I ordered that.  Everything else is on hand.  So there you go, I have already greatly shortened my usual design time and eliminated the shopping time for this quilt.  This probably means I will finish it, although it is touch and go.  I’m keeping anything about what it is like quiet because I want to give it the best chance possible.  Now that I have been playing around in the quilting community for a while I find I know a lot of the judges, as is the case for MAQF.  They also frequently know my quilts.  I’m sure this is true with other show quilters out there.  Maybe I can make one that they won’t recognize as mine. 

A quilt project like this makes it hard to write blog posts on a regular basis.  Additionally, the Bayou quilt also has some restrictions on sharing pictures of it for the most part until completion, at least.  Nevertheless, trust me when I say it is all fun right now. I’ve gotten both quilts fairly well started and over some of the beginning problems I had for both of them. 

A Question for my readers:

Over the decades I have accumulated a lot of sewing and quilting knowledge.  I’ve sometimes thought I am a techniques collector just for the heck of it.  LOL.  Sew my question to my readers, assuming there are any, is what would you like me to blog about? I can provide some short tutorials, answer how to questions, and talk about quilty things.  I will use your responses to write my blogs while I’m working on these two quilts.  Please respond.

Sew happy everyone!