Down to the Last Minute, and A Thread Review

I am going to take the second batch of my quilts out to G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, for the second part of the exhibit of my quilts.  This exhibit, which runs from mid July until the end of August or so, includes nearly all my show quilts except for Pendragon, Dad’s House plan, this year’s Hoffman Challenge still on tour, and a couple I have sold or given away.  They will be displayed throughout the store, including those that are already there in the Bernina department.  I also have completed one new quilt and nearly finished a second new quilt just for this exhibit.  Some of these quilts are available for purchase.  I will (really) post photos of the exhibit sometime in the latter half of July.

Sew here is where I’m at on the preparations.  I have completed the second one of my Alfred Shaheen panel quilts and named it “Tropical Garden”.  I used a lot of Superior’s new 100 weight polyester thread called Microquilter on both that quilt and the “Field of FLowers” I hope to finish by Friday to include in the exhibit.

A Review of Microquilter Thread

When I won all thirty colors of Superior’s Microquilter 100 weight polyester from Superior Threads, I was really thrilled.  I use almost more 100 weight threads than I do any other thread.  I use it for background quilting, detail thread sketching on things like flowers and line drawings, and I also love it for machine applique.  I do not use it for piecing or bobbins.

I found it a wonderful workable thread.  I tried it in my Bernina Q20 sit down longarm, my Bernina 830 LE, and my Bernina 350.  In every case I had to lower the top tension to keep it from breaking, just as I do for silk 100 wt and monopoly.  It worked beautifully without further adjustment in everything but the Q20.  For that, I had to lower the bobbin tension also (I used it with Bottom Line in the bobbin, though I did try one bobbin with the Microquilter).  I found surprisingly that the Superior top stitch needle size 80 worked better than a smaller needle that I use for monopoly and silk.  So here is how I ended up setting up my Q20 (Fritz) if you have one:

  • I have found my Q20 works better with a Magic Bobbin Genie sized for M bobbin.  I just put it in over the spring in the bobbin.  Without it, I have some thread nests on the bottom of my quilt when I get going really fast, and believe me, the Q20 can go REALLY fast.
  • I set the bobbin tension with Superior’s Bottom Line or the Microquilter itself for 180 using the tension guage that came with my machine.  If you use the Microquilter in your bobbin don’t wind it full.  It works better a little less…starting at about 3/4 full.  In the course of making two quilts, I used both Bottom Line that I wound and some prewound Superior thread bobbins that use Bottom Line.
  • I set the top tension for 125
  • I used a size 80 Superior top stitch titanium needle.
  • I used BSR1 set at 280 speed for tiny little stippling and 200 for slower tiny bubbles
  • This setup makes it work like a dream…no nests, no hangups, no tension problems

I will provide some pictures of my quilting with Microquilter as soon as I get them taken.  I am behind in getting my quilts photographed.

 

I got my little personal app quilt home that was a part of Road to California’s traveling exhibit of app quilts.  It has lost about six hot fix crystals out of hundreds, so I need to replace them by Friday.  I have one quilt that needs washing and reblocking, which I will do today.  I have several more stumpwork butterflies to make for the Field of Flowers and I have to put the rod pocket and label on it.  I think I can make the Friday deadline on this one, since the actual quilt is complete and bound. I even have the silver spider charm on the spider web part of that quilt.  Here’s the dragonfly that is ready to go onto the quilt already.  It’s in parts and needs a little additional embroidery after attachment where the wings attach to the body.  I will do turned edge applique of the body and hide the wing wires under that.  I will also probably darken the little white edges of the sheer to match the stitching.  I may even do a hand blanket stitch over the edges if I decide it needs it.  The first picture shows the pieces after stitching, and the second picture shows the dragonfly together ready to applique on.

The embroidered pieces, which I made in the hoop with my Bernina 830 LE

And I also need to ship “Pendragon” to AQS this week.  I want to do a little gold paint touch up on the border paint before I ship it.

So I have a really busy week ahead of me, but it’s an exciting time.  I am enormously pleased that G Street has asked me to show my quilts in the exhibit there.  It is a real honor.  I hope you have a chance to see it.  The whole show will be available in mid-July. I’m not sure of the exact dates, so you might want to call them before you head there.

Sew happy everyone!  Teach someone to sew or quilt…yourself, you cat, your dog…your son.  Until next time!

 

An Exhibit of My Quilts at G Street Fabrics

I am enjoying a new fabric adventure into the world of exhibiting of the body of my art quilting work at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, which is a two-part exhibit.  The first part is in the Bernina section of the store.  The second part will start in mid-July and my quilts will be displayed throughout the store.  I believe this part will run for an additional two months and I am hoping to complete several new quilts for this part.  So in effect, my quilts will be on display from now through August.

Yesterday I took eight of my quilts over to the store for part one. This part includes all three of my Ancient Manuscript quilts, four of my Hoffman Challenge quilts that demonstrate my growth as a quilter from 2008 to 2013, and Dad’s House Plan from 2013.  I had such a good time while I was there and am very excited about this two-part exhibit.  I am honored that G Street Fabrics wants to do this exhibit for me.

In June, I will be teaching a three hour workshop on quilting there at G Street…primarily free motion quilting but I am also going to briefly talk about quilting with a walking foot. Sometime while my quilts are there I will be providing a walking lecture around the store to talk about my quilts and related things in the store.

G Street is a wonderful store.  It is getting better all the time after it clearly moved to save itself from failing.  It closed two stores in Virginia to my chagrin and moved from it’s old Rockville location to its new one.  The new store is less showy and slightly smaller than the old Rockville one, but I looked over it yesterday and found it has a fine selection of fabrics and notions and seemed busy again.  It also has a kind of interesting atmosphere similar to some fabric stores I encountered in New York years ago…not flashy, but full of wonderful things for the sewist, quilter, and fabric artists of all kinds.  The Bernina section is in a setting like its own store, and it has a wonderful set of classrooms for teaching.  They have a Bernina Q24 longarm set up in the store that is available for in-store rental of time on the longarm.  And Lew is the best Bernina tech I have ever encountered over my many years of sewing on Berninas.  I encourage you to go pay it a visit if you are ever in the area, or even make a trip there if you are close enough.  You can even order from them online.

Sew happy everyone!  I hope you can make it to G Street and see my exhibits.   I better get to work…I have several new quilts in the works for the second part of the exhibit!

Making Panel Quilts: The Designs

Design for my second Alfred Shaheen panel quilt (image using EQ7).  There will also be painted designs of flowers and possibly birds around the border.  I am currently working on those designs.

I am making as many quilts as I can to add to my upcoming exhibit of my quilts at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, to take place sometime in the  April/May period. I figure keeping busy is a great way to ignore the news as much as possible, and quilting is such a delightful way to do that.

I had such a lot of fun making my Hawaiian Garden quilt that was focused around the Alfred Shaheen panel that I made for the MQX Exhibit in 2016 and later gifted to my brother and his wife for their special 50th wedding anniversary that I decided to make another one (see design above).  Here in this picture of Hawaiian Garden and you can see I will be using a similar border plan for the second AF panel quilt:

Hawaiian Garden…central panel is a vintage Alfred Shaheen panel.

I received permission to make the second quilt from Alfred Shaheen‘s daughter, since the first quilt had been made under MQX’s permission they got for the exhibit.  His daughter asked that I let my quilt friends know that the panels are very rare and are obviously precious to her.  I know that all of us who have made these for MQX are honoring his wonderful art work with our quilts.

I have also been working on the design for a panel quilt where I will be using a printout of the design I painted myself for the central panel.  I worked out this plan below in EQ7 using the design I painted in the center.  I still have to get the central panel printed.  I may add some additional real painting in the border…I have an idea for that, but can’t get it drawn like I “see” it in my head yet.  I might just leave it as is.

Design for my digital flower panel quilt (using EQ7 to design placement and border)

Both of these quilts will probably not take very long to make, now that I have worked out the designs and have the borders worked out in EQ7 which is very helpful in getting them cut properly.  I already have the quilt top cut out and ready to piece together for the Alfred Shaheen panel quilt design shown at the top of this post.  I plan on offering both of these new quilts for sale if they come out like I hope.

Sew happy everyone!  Make a panel quilt…there are some wonderful panels out there now and they are really fun to make.  You sometimes have to block them square first and steam helps too.

 

 

Happy 2017: A New Year Full of Promise and Opportunities!!!!

Happy New Year everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited about the promise and opportunities this new year brings.  Right away in 2017 I have a batch of really exciting new projects all ready to start and several very interesting projects close to the finish.   My sons, daughter in law, and grandson all have made me proud and their future for this year looks really promising.  I even have begun to make some progress already on my plan to lose a lot of weight, which always seems harder for me than most.  I am grateful and thankful to my dear Lord for all He has done for me.

I am first of all finishing Ken’s quilt, and then making several fun quilts that will be simply for my spring exhibit at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland and then for sale…not necessarily for shows. One book is well along the way and two are outlined and started.  The next thing is to make a bunch of samples for these books.  And I will have to make some new clothes if I actually succeed in my weight loss program, but that will probably be in the second half of the year.

This is a preliminary design of one of my quilts for the exhibit based on the digital flowers in the middle that I have spent several weeks painting in my spare time and finished today.  I plan to have the central section printed on fabric. The borders will have a little more to them.

Sew happy everyone.  May you have a wonderfully blessed and productive 2017.  Celebrate!

Preparing for an Exhibit in the Spring

I haven’t finished my blog series on quilting for domestic machine artists, but I thought I’d tell you about a coming happening. G Street Fabrics will be hosting an exhibit of my quilts in the spring of 2017.

I have taken a hard look at the quilts I will have available and have decided it would be good if I can make several new quilts for that.  I’m excited about this.  So I will be backing off from showing my quilts in quilt shows around the country.

I recently purchased a new Shaheen vintage panel and will make a second quilt along the same lines of “Hawaiian Garden” shown below and offer it for sale at the exhibit. The panel is different, but I will be adding a similar border drawing the design from that panel.

hawaiian-garden-web

Hawaiian Garden: I made this for MQX Albert Shaheen exhibit quilts this year. I recently gave this quilt to my brother Pat and his wife Carol in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary this year. So I no longer have this quilt.  The central panel is a vintage Shaheen panel and I designed and painted the border based on the panel design.

In addition to that one, I have some ideas for additional quilts that I think I might be able to make in the time I have. Some of these involve some new techniques I want to try and I will be sharing these with you along the way. I am also going to complete my son Ken’s quilt, and I do plan to enter that one into a show or two, but I want it home for the spring exhibit.

This will be a kind of departure from the direction I have been moving–away from shows and toward other avenues for sharing my work.  I have become fairly puzzled by what is going on in the show quilting world recently.  Last week two of my best quilts were rejected from Road to California, one of which has already won a ribbon and one that has already been shown in two AQS shows.  I was encouraged by the Houston judging by what won.  I did not enter this year, but in many, maybe even most, of the other shows the winners and losers have been an absolute puzzle to me. Some of the most exquisite quilts, beautifully designed and quilted, that might remotely be considered an art quilt did not do well, and the winners also seemed surprising.

So I have decided to concentrate on making my quilts equally as well as I would if they were a show quilt, and show or sell them as I can in other avenues, and to work also on my books and teach a few workshops locally.  This decision already seems to have unlocked my creativity that felt like it was grinding to a slow halt.  I’ll keep you up to date on that in case you are in the area and can come see my quilts or take one of my workshops.  I will probably enter something in Houston for 2017, but we’ll see.  I will take a new look at this situation after the exhibit or later.

Sew I am happily working away in my studio, perhaps at an even higher level than I have up until now, and we’ll see just how much of the ideas will actually make it on time.

Sew happy everyone.  Follow your leanings in your quilting.  If you don’t you may find it hard to work.

Spiral Galaxy Completed and a Few Thoughts

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

detail picture by BJ

detail picture by BJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thoughts On Wall Quilt Sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quilt Making for OSWLC needlework group

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

 

Finishing Things So I Can Start New Things

I love finishing projects of all kinds.  It means I have accomplished something, but chiefly, it means I can start something new.  Currently, I am working on finishing my Hoffman Challenge 2016 small wall quilt.  It is such a happy project…full of butterflies and bunnies, and set in a whimsical forest.  I am quilting it now.    I know that you don’t HAVE to finish one project before starting another, but it’s really nice to do it that way.  I have a hard time not finishing before starting another, simply because of all the years I had to finish things for really important reasons, and way back when I had my own fashion design/tailoring business when I HAD to finish projects for my clients’ sake.

I am also getting my studio rearranged so I can put my new Bernina Q20 where it will be easily available.  To do this, I had to start with reorganizing my bedroom so I could eliminate one of my two dressers and move the Koala cabinet that I use with my Bernina 1230 and Bernina 350 into my bedroom.  I have finished preparations for that part of the reorg.  Next I will be putting the Q20 where the Koala cabinet is now.  It all starts tomorrow with a scheduled pickup of no-longer-in-use clothing and shoes (six bags so far).  Then on Tuesday the 31st, the guys come who are taking the dresser away to charity and moving the koala cabinet in place.  Then the following Monday, June 6th, I am expecting the delivery and setup of the Q20.  And finally, on Wednesday, the 8th, my dear friend and Bernina dealer Mei Ling, and the magician machine tech Lew, who fixed my 830LE, are coming to provide me with a day of training on the use and servicing of the Q20.

Wow!  I mean WOW!!!  When they have finished on Wednesday, I will be ready to begin a new phase in being a studio fabric artist.  I’ve recently learned that is what I am, because I am not an extrovert who wishes to travel all over and teach.  I am not particularly an introvert either, because I love people.  But I love my studio and my work as an artist whose medium is fabric and quilting.  I feel inspired when I’m in the studio working (and usually listening to music).

Upon completion of all of this, I will have available for my creative use two standard workhorse machines for use in clothing and some piece work (and the 350 to take to classes), my Bernina 830LE (Gibbs) for machine embroidery, specialized applique, and decorative stitch work, and my new Q20 set up as a sit down longarm for my quilting work.  I will still use Gibbs for quilting when I want to quilt with decorative stitching, but that is only about one percent of my quilting.  I also have a small kitchen island that is my cutting and painting station, a nearby small bathroom where I do some occasional hand dyes and for use with cleaning up after painting, and my computer station with a good ink jet printer.  In the process of all of this, I am removing a couple of old printers and putting in a second monitor for my computer station (at no cost…just work) to assist me with the design work.

I am most grateful to the Lord, my kids, and my Bernina friends who have or are all pitching in one way or another to help me make this happen.  It is a dream studio.  Sew I am a healthy, albeit overweight, 69 now.  In the past, I sewed decades using lesser machines and after work and weekends, and then spent a lot of time learning the art quilt craft after I retired a little over three years ago.  This seams a very good time to raise the level of my work up another notch, don’t you think?  It would also be a great help to me to start winning more ribbons and selling more quilts (and even completing and selling my books) to help pay for my fabric art work and maybe even add a little additional income.

I just completed “Drawing Nigh” and am about to finish the Hoffman Challenge quilt.  So what is next after my studio revamp?  Ahhh.,..I have a lot of plans that seem to be growing all the time.  First off, I want badly to make a new show quilt by 15 August for the PA Nat’l Quilt Extravaganza in Philadelphia because I’m going up there for that show and am staying with a long term friend who recently retired and moved nearby there.  So I want something to show off with…LOL…I don’t think I can complete Ken’s wonderful quilt by then, so I am planning on attempting the next quilt in my deep space series, which may be doable.  After all, it was that show last year that gave Sky Horse it’s ribbon (Best color choice for its category).  I think I probably can.  More than half of the work on those quilts is free motion quilting.  It will be a good tryout for my new Q20.  I hope to complete Ken’s quilt by the end of the year or early next.  It is much the most difficult piece of art I have ever attempted, so I refuse to rush it.  And then, I am considering making a couple of whole cloth quilts inspired by really ancient historical quilts.  Oh, and don’t forget the orange/gold dragon flying over volcanos and possibly fighting a phoenix, or the third in my “waiting…” series, or my memorial quilt for my mom, or the deep dark forest in nearly three dimensions, oh, and there’s Jacob’s ladder, and Adam naming the animals, and…and….

Sew happy everyone!  Do a little spring cleaning and reorganizing and start something new and fun.

The Waiting… Series of Quilts and Other News

Waiting...

Waiting…

I just sold Waiting… yesterday.  It has been hanging in G Street Fabrics Bernina section for about a month now, along with a couple of my other quilts I have decided to sell. I love this quilt.  It took me over a year to make (off and on…probably about six months full time).  I sent it through several national shows, and used it a bit for my show and tell trunk shows, but the judges thought the borders were too wide and so forth.  I actually agree with them now, but I will tell you that feedback to me personally from people who have seen it was the most positive of any quilt I have made before or since.  Several people–even men–have actually wept over the quilt, as did the buyer.

The one-on-one responses have been so strong that I decided to make a whole series of quilts based on the heart-tugging circumstance of women (and some children) waiting at home for their men to return from war or other dangerous and totally necessary jobs down through history.  The women faced difficult and sometimes dangerous lives while their husbands were gone, and many kept the home going, raised their children, and fed their families while their husbands went and came back from their important jobs. Or they did not come back!  Currently, I am working on the second in the series.  This will be very similar to the one above, except the borders are different, or non -existent, and the woman is a little better dressed and has her daughter with her.  The ship is going to be better also, I hope, and there will be a distant light house.  I have been working hard to get the sky and sea fabrics right, and I think I have finally done that, so I am constructing the top and trying to come up with a name.

It is hard for me to sell my quilts.  I put a lot of myself into them.  But it is also an honor when someone loves one so much that they buy it.  I am so happy it is going to a couple who love it and told me personally they are planning to cherish it and pass it down to their family.  I need the money, I need the space in my home for more quilts, and I need to sell more quilts for these reasons.

Day before yesterday I took down my online shop where I had my quilts for sale because it was getting no response and I had originally been told that they were going to have downloadable product capabilities by the end of last year. They have changed that apparently.  So yesterday while I was investigating different ways to sell my quilts and downloadables I got the call from G Street.  I’ll leave the other two quilts at G Street for a little longer and then maybe make some changes.  They are beautiful, but don’t have the same emotional tug, so we’ll see what happens.  They are:

Quiet Celebration

Quiet Celebration, Second Place winner in Hoffman Challenge 2011 in its category and also shown in Ireland, and

 

The Storyteller

The Storyteller, Hoffman Challenge 2013

Sew happy, everyone!  Go make yourself some art for your walls.  By the way, I haven’t forgotten the idea of a quilt work-along that I advanced some weeks back.  I’m working on the pattern now.  Also, I am working on samples for my first book.