Projects Completed, Looking toward 2019

Sew I finished my overcoat and it looks fabulous, fits well, and is even flattering.  It also is much warmer than I thought it was going to be, so I am all ready for what is expected to be a colder-than-usual winter. I haven’t got pictures yet, but I will and post them.

I finished! Ready for the next project.

The past few days my son David and I have been preparing the house for Christmas decorating.  In other words, we have been cleaning and David put together a nice small drop leaf table we are going to use to put our kind of short Christmas tree on and then, after Christmas, he will be using it for his chair side table.  It’s really quite pretty hardwood and seems perfect for the use we are planning for it.  I totally love Christmas.  It always warms my heart and it has a lot of sparkle.

Announcing the beginning of Advent! From Canterbury Knight.

I also have finished writing the manuscript for my book “Ten Skill Building Projects for Bernina V7 Embroidery Software”.  My dear friend and Bernina dealer Mei-Ling Huang convinced me to go ahead and complete the book since I almost had it finished because lots of people are still using v7.  So I have.  I am now working on putting it into book format using Corel Draw and will publish it through Amazon.  That project will take me a while, but sometime early in 2019 I will publish this book with the help of my son David, who has his own small press.  It may be published under Fennec Fox Press (David’s publishing company), but we are still deciding if this is the best way to do this.

So I bought Bernina v8 and plan to write a similar book for that version.  It may be mostly the same, just updated, though I might find something really fun in the new version that I want to use.  I think I can put that book out in 2019 also, not too much later than v7 book.

I will tell you that I feel greatly relieved to get these two big projects finished, and I will be really happy to get the house decorated, probably tomorrow.  I will be delighted to return to more quilting and less other things.  First of all, I am going to do a small project using couching and needle punch for practice and a sample  I am also working on a couple of ruler quilting practice samples. And yes, I already have several quilts in mind to use these particular techniques, and so this is part of preparing to launch into those.

One of the nice little bits of news is that Night on the Bayou has been accepted into Road to California 2019 in January 24-27.  I’m considering going.  My brother lives in San Diego and offered to put me up for a visit and drive up for a day trip to see the show if I can scrape together the round trip ticket funds. We’ll see what happens.

Limbs and spanish moss closeup.

Competition at this show is really keen.  It’s probably as high as for both Houston IQF and AQS Paducah.  So it would be a surprise if it ribbons.  Nevertheless. Joel Christopher Payne, the artist whose beautiful piece “Delights of the Bayou” inspired this quilt lives just 45 minutes away and said he will go to the show to see it.  I hope he really does, though I know he is a very busy person.  I think he would be amazed with the art of the quilts at the show.

Sew happy everyone!  Have a marvelous Christmas/Holiday season.  I celebrate from the first day of Advent through the twelve days of Christmas ending on January 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving and Other Things

Hi everyone.  I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I am very thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and my readers.  I was thinking about it the other day as I was pressing a section of the (seemingly never-ending project) overcoat.  I dug out my special pressing things I have had for years for use in making clothing…my ham, my sleeve pressing board, my shaped wood pressing piece.  I haven’t used them for a couple of years and I am grateful I did not get rid of them because of that.  I am grateful for my machines and my wonderful inspiring studio, no matter that it is a bit of a mess.

My thoughts today are also with those who have lost so much in recent disasters both hurricanes and fires.  I  just want to hug you all and wish you all a speedy  and full recovery.  I am trying to figure out the best approach for helping.  I don’t have a lot of cash to contribute and I know rushing to send stuff is sometimes more of a problem than a help in the end.  For now, I’m doing some praying and watching for what, if anything, I can do.

Sew how is my overcoat coming?  Well, I have completed the outer shell and am almost finished with the lining that includes the fur collar.  To me, the biggest challenge is getting that fur collar installed in the coat.  Sewing with this thick fur is not the easiest thing and requires some special techniques even it if is “faux” fur.  I think that will happen tomorrow afternoon or Monday.  Then I will be practically done except for hems and buttonholes, so it is looking like I will make my Thanksgiving deadline.  After that…back to quilt making and book writing, and I am looking forward to it.  The coat has been more of a project than I anticipated largely because of the challenging fabrics.  The fabulous wool is, nevertheless, loosely woven in a way that closely resembles hand woven fabric.  the fur collar is fabulous faux fur, but sewing with it is also challenging.  Nevertheless, I will be happy to have this beautiful coat.  It is going to be a little snug, but since I am in the process of losing weight I think that is the way it should be fitted at this time.  It will serve me well for several years even as I go down in size (I can move the buttons and I made the sleeve/side seems such I can take them up fairly easily).  My next fashion sewing project will be with well-behaving fabrics!!!

Sew happy everyone!  Have a wonderful time this week!

 

 

 

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!

 

Stash Busting: Making a Bag

One side of the bag

While I began finally to recover from a bear of a cold–and yes, I am back from the coughing, sneezing, nose-dripping, energy sapping two week long cold finally–I decided to do something kind of fun and gentle that someone else did most of the thinking for me.  So I finally got around to making bag 1 of Rami Kim’s IQUILT online class.  It is entirely made from scraps in my stash.  Even the zipper was something I must have bought nearly a decade ago just for this bag, but I didn’t know it then.  LOL.  The picture at the top is one side.  I really love it.  I added a couple of pockets in the lining that she didn’t have.  I like it so much I think I will use it for my primary bag for a while.

It was a lot of fun, even though I made a lot of mistakes that had to be corrected.  I made the top piece, which is cut in two pieces for both sides.  First you quilt a 14 x 22 inch piece and then you cut out the corners and cut it into half for the zipper.  I cut one corner too big!  😒  So I had to make another top piece.  I had originally used a darker gray, but since I used it up in the first piece, I hunted around and found a similar piece with the same kind of print but it was a lighter gray.  Then I cut the bottom piece of lining in two, like you were supposed to do for the top, but not for the bottom, so I rejoined it with the leftover piece of folded strip like the one that you use down one side of the folded Chotsky ribbons.  But in the end, I think it came out really nice.  Here’s the other side.

In the past, when I made a bag (and I’ve made quite a few over the years), I was never really happy with the handles.  Rami suggests leather handles for the bags, and they solve a multitude of problems.  I went on a hunt for them, and finally found that Amazon sells them in multiple styles and colors and they aren’t expensive.  So I ordered two pair…this gray one and a nice green one for a future bag totally from my stash.  I have a couple of long multi-zippers in a roll from Nancy’s Notions that I can use for that one.  This is so much fun it could get to be a habit.  In the future, though, I hope I am faster and make fewer mistakes.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourself a bag.  Hint:  Be sure to build it right…interface the fabrics, put the right kind of stiff batting, and use the zipper a little longer than required to make it easier.  Adding internal pockets is really easy…just make a lined square piece the right size (figure it out from your pattern, remembering where it will bend or be stitched) and stitch it on while the lining is still flat.  Be sure to measure and center the pockets.  You can even make a zipper pocket fairly easily.  Maybe I’ll show you how in one of my future blogs if you want.  I just made patch pockets for this bag and added a couple of lines of stitching to make a place for a pen and a notebook on one side and just left it with no divisions on the other side.

 

My Thoughts About My Fabric Art for 2017

I have made some adjustments in my thinking about my fabric art direction over the last few months that will lead to my putting less focus on competition art quilting and more on the adventure of making art as fabulous as I can.  You may not see much difference, because I probably will continue to enter some of my work into shows, but the emphasis in my studio and in my mind is more on the art work and less on the show work.

I am very excited about this because I have so many things I want to try to make and I want to share with you, gentle readers, what I learn along the way.

This new direction came about because two quilts of mine that I know are quite show worthy and people would emjoy seeing them, were both rejected from Road to California 2017.  That puzzled me (I have several theories about this, but I won’t share them here).  They are wonderful quilts and deserved to be in the show. Here they are:

Drawing Nigh, completed 4/17/2016, 39.5 x 44.5 inches. Original design by BJ

 

Spiral Galaxy No. 3 (Best Interpretation of Theme in PNQE earlier this year)

Yes, I know all the things that are said about this by friends trying to comfort me (I am not upset, by the way.  It is a good thing that helped me think I needed to move in new directions)…”make what you love”, “even if they are rejected it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your quilt”, “they probably had too many in that category”, and so on.   I appreciate it.  But think about this: It costs money to enter a show, and my desire when I enter is chiefly to share my quilts with people.

If I win something it is icing on the cake, so not to get into a show is really harder for me to take than not placing.  I used to clearly understand it if my quilt was rejected, since I was such a junior quilt maker and I could see the problems in the quilts myself.  But my recent quilts are flat, square, quilted well, full of impact, individual, good designs, and worthy of sharing.

So I have decided to loosen my focus on shows a bit and look for new ways to share my quilts, sell my quilts, and share what I have learned (books, classes within driving distance, this blog, and so forth).  I am having an exhibit of my quilts next spring at G Street Fabrics in Rockville. I still will try to get some quilts in if I think they fit well in a particular show, because that is the best way to share them with more people.  But that will not be my focus for making a new quilt.  I have so many quilts I want to make…fabric and thread experiments I want to try…digital to fabric experiments…and embellishment and applique adventures I want to go on.  Without having to worry about the judges, I will have more freedom (though they will all still be made to show quality). It is so exciting.

I am currently working on my wonderful oldest son Ken’s design he gave me for my birthday in March.  This quilt has taken me longer in actual hours than any other quilt so far.  I have at last completed the central pictorial theme this week, made all the special border pieces and the text box.  I only have to cover a tiny cord for inclusion in the quilt and I will be putting together all the pieces of the top very soon.  I already have figured out how I am going to quilt it once I get it to that stage, and with my wonderful new Bernina Q20 (Fritz), I expect that to go well and faster than past quilts.  I am hoping to get that into Houston next fall, since it’s always been intended as a show quilt, and if I do, I will hope to attend the show myself.

In addition to the creation of fabric art, I am planning on blogging several series of how-tos like my recent five-parter here, including one with a few months of a step-of-the-month project.  I will be teaching some classes at G Street Fabrics in Rockville next year, and will be looking for other nearby possibilities for workshops (I don’t like to fly).  I will finally finish writing the three books I already have been working on (Applique for fabric artists, Embellishment and surface design, and Quilting for art quilts) to be published by Fennec Fox Press (my youngest son’s small publishing company).

Sew happy everyone! Join me in this exciting new adventure in 2017!

 

 

 

Burnishing the Rust Off Clothing Construction Techniques

I am making shirt number one in my wardrobe makeover project that I plan on stretching across the next year in between quilting.  Now it has been about two years since I made a blouse or shirt, and that was the first one after several years, so I have a lot of rust to sand off my shirt/blouse making skills.  I am remembering almost everything that I learned or developed during my many years of clothing construction though, and it is very helpful,  so I thought I’d share some of it.

First of all, I only rarely read the directions, but I don’t recommend this if you are new to clothing construction. The reason I don’t is that I change a lot of the techniques to speed up the process and make the end results more satisfactory and sometimes the directions coincide with my techniques and sometimes they don’t.

Secondly, I use the specialty feet and stitches to help me get things done well, like the edge stitch foot for topstitching, and using the blanket stitch with my applique foot for stitching down the inside of the collar stand to the neck.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.

Here you see the inside of the collar stand with the blanket stitch along the bottom where it attaches to the neckline. It looks nice on this side and on the other side.  No hand-stitching needed.

Here’s my basic approach, which I figure cuts the time by about 25 percent over the usual pattern making instructions after a little practice.  This is not for specialty fabrics, or when you want details like french or flat felled seams, but a simple shirt:

  1. I look over the pattern to see if I need to add or change a piece like adding an additional facing or changing the type of sleeve placket to match what I’m trying to do.
  2. After flat fitting my pattern, generally using Nancy Zieman’s methods (see last week’s blog) and cutting out the shirt, I interface all the facings and other pieces.  For facings I sew fusible interfacing non glue side to the right side of the facing with a small quarter inch or less seam on the edge you would be turning down, turn, and fuse the facing.  This gives you that nice turned edge with little trouble.
  3. I finish all the seam edges with a serger, or I sometimes use the vari-overlock foot (2a on my Berninas) and the vari-overlock stitch (#3 on my Bernina 830), except the arm scythe (armhole).
  4. I make all the small, challenging pieces first…like the collar on the collar stand, tabs, and the cuffs of the shirt.  I top stitch using my edge stitch foot (#10D on my B 830).
  5. Then I sew it together in this order:
    • Front seams and edges or front placket, depending on style.
    • Pocket(s).
    • Shoulder seams, or yokes.
    • collar or facing onto the neckline, depending on style, adding any decorative stitching as I go.
    • sleeves into armhole (arm scythe) before seaming side seams and sleeve seams, unless sleeve is a multi-piece sleeve where the underarm seam doesn’t match.
      1. I finish the armhole seam with a second stitching about an eighth inch into the seam, trim close to that and then I finish with a vari-overlock stitch or zigzag using #2a foot.  I have found down through the years that this is one of the strongest, most reliable seams you can stitch. I learned this from making very heavily used opera costumes.  It’s really embarrassing if the performer rips a seam during the performance.
      2. If you are making a particularly nice blouse, you may wish to cover the seam with a light bias tape designed for seam finishes or cut a 1/2″ bias strip from a very light piece of fabric and fold it over the seam after stitching the two rows and then zigzag it down.
      3. I then edge topstitch the armhole on the front and back, with the seam turned toward the front and back.
    • If needed, sew any additional pieces, like tabs on.
    • Sew the sleeve placket, if needed.
    • I then sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one operation.  This is particularly good if you are losing weight, because you can take in the shirt and sleeve for about two sizes from the finished size with very little effort by stitching in however much you need, starting at just above the cuff in the original stitch line and gradually stitching toward the amount you need to take in the shirt and continuing to the hem.  You only then have to remove the stitching from the original seam and the hemline and restitch the hemline.  I am currently losing weight, so I have chosen patterns that have single piece sleeves where the undarm/side seams meet–a much better option than not making any new clothes until you lose more weight.
    • Put on the cuff or hem the sleeve, as needed.
    • Hem the shirt/blouse and sew the buttonholes, if needed.
    • Sew on the buttons and you are done.

If you do a lot of shirts like this, you eventually make a shirt after cutting it out in a morning or afternoon.  I’m not back to this quickly yet.  It took me about eight hours to make my first shirt in my wardrobe makeover.  I am sure my next shirt will be quite a bit quicker now that I have worked through and sanded off the rust.

group of feet

Some of the feet I used to make the shirt…1D, 20D, 10D, 37D, and I also used 2A, and 8D.

A word about feet:  I have found that if I am not using a zigzag or decorative stitch, sometimes it is better to use a straight stitch foot, like 37D or 8D on my Bernina 830, which lets me see all the way to the needle, and the straight stitch throat plate, than it is to use the one most recommended for such sewing like 1D, because I can see where I’m sewing better.  If I’m sewing simple flat seams without much curving or the like, then the 1D is probably better, because it holds down the fabric very well.  I also usually engage the dual feed mechanism for most of the sewing, but this is not a necessity if you don’t have this on your machine.  If you don’t you may wish to pin a little more and have something like an awl to help move the top fabric through evenly with the bottom.  With my dual feed engaged, I can eliminate pinning altogether for a lot of the sewing.

Sew happy everybody!  Make yourself a shirt.

 

 

Put on Some Music and Sew/Quilt!

I have a big list of sewing I am attempting between now and mid September, when I’m planning on going to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in Oak, PA, and sewing and quilting between now and December.  I bought a robe, because I didn’t have the fabric for that anyway and needed a new one.  I am planning on making a couple of shirts and an embroidered vest for the PNQE, and finishing Ken’s quilt and making a new overcoat by Christmas.

One night this past week I was eating dinner alone, because my son David was out.  I made myself a pretty good light chicken dinner and put on “The Martian”.  I love the way Mark, who faces impossible odds, solves problems as they come along and manages to stay alive long enough, and to accomplish the long trip on Mars he needs to in spite of everything in order to be rescued.  It is immaterial  whether it could really happen that way or not in real life, it’s the concept that is vividly presented of facing overwhelming odds and not giving up when setbacks occur.  It’s the way my wonderful parents, who are both gone now, always urged me and my brother Pat to live our lives and it’s the way they lived theirs.  It’s how I’m trying to approach my sewing and quilting and my life as I age now.  Here’s the last of the border design tests I did for Ken’s quilt.  This is the one I didn’t think I could make.  I’m so happy with it.  I hope it comes out as well on the green polyester satin I finally settled on for the green Celtic border.

I ended up digitizing this manually, because I couldn't get the original ancient design, that had been scanned in and was blotchy, cleaned enough to auto digitize. I'm now through with the tests and have begun making the quilt.

I ended up digitizing this manually, because I couldn’t get the original ancient design, that had been scanned in and was blotchy, cleaned enough to auto digitize. I’m now through with the digitizing and the tests and have begun making the quilt.

I chose the three patterns I showed in my last blog post for the shirts that I am flat fitting (with only a few minor changes, I use Nancy Zieman’s swing method for fitting shown here and here and it works well). I’ve got one fitted and cut out.  I’m going to make a bunch of shirts across the next year in between quilting from the same three patterns.  My “uniform” for my studio work is a good pair of jeans and a pretty, but comfortable shirt.  Then I can throw on a decorative vest or jacket for going out. I can even use the same patterns to make some dressier shirts by changing the fabric and adding some embellishments and wearing it with some nice slacks (I have a slacks pattern already fitted to me) and perhaps one of my silk vests.  I’ve come a long ways from my days of making and wearing designer clothing or professional tailored suits, but I have a much more relaxed lifestyle now and I love it.  I am planning to make a tailored slacks suit from one of my nice three-season suit wools I have laying around.  But that might not happen until after winter sets in.

Sew happy everyone!  Let’s put on some music and rock your projects out along with me, solving challenges along the way!  Woohoo!  Also, let’s practice FM and ruler-work quilting a little bit every day.  I’m also spending a little time every day practicing work with my digital design software.  I have a new quilt idea that requires that.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Encouraging Enthusiasm in Quilting and Sewing

Woman sewing

Gloomy feelings are prevalent in the quilting community recently at the announcements of the closures of several quilt-related magazines and businesses, or parts of businesses.  I was recently talking with a close friend of mine about this. These things have a way of being self-fulfilling prophesies by making people hesitate to dive in and do things because they think the industry is closing and they don’t want to invest their time and money in a failing pursuit if supplies, or when fellow quilters might not be around.  Linda Thielfoldt captured it well in her blog post in which she ends up by calling on us to mentor a child.

Sew let us think about this a bit and brush the dust off of our dreams for making that piece of funky or pretty art for your wall,  a well-tailored jacket, a set of decorative pillows to spruce up your living space, a really nice outfit to wear to special occasions, some new pot holders, or how about that costume for your favorite fun festival or party.  Sewing and quilting can be calming and also a fun adventure.

I’ve actually seen recent comments from quilters or sewists criticizing other sewists for the way they shop or buy a class, or blaming problems on the “aging” quilters, who, they assume, don’t buy anything anymore (WRONG!!!); or on young sewists and quilters who have very little time and not so much money so they pull learning and patterns from where they can. Such comments are not helpful.

I call upon these naysayers and those who are worried to welcome all manner of quilting and sewing into our folds…the costume maker, the art quilter, the modern quilter, the traditional quilter, the tailored clothes maker, the hat maker, the bag maker, the doll maker, the sewist who makes items for charity, the ten minutes-at-a-time stitcher, the incredibly talented hand stitcher, and those who do all of these things just because they can.

man sewing 1912

Sewing and quilting is an adventure, an occupation that takes our minds off of the difficulties of life, the politics, the horrible things happening in the world, and gives us the opportunity to think about how to construct that tote bag, or make that art quilt, or tailor that jacket to wear to work.  In the end, moreover, we often end up with something truly wonderful.

I do also hope we can stop categorizing the sewists of this world into preconceived ideas in a way that may limit opportunities.  The younger quilter is not always interested in modern quilting.  The older quilter is not always interested in traditional quilting.  The middle-aged quilter is often ignored in discussions of this type.  The art quilter is often as committed to excellence in their craft as the traditional quilter.  Some people have jobs or other responsibilities that don’t allow them time to take half a day to shop or  go to that show.  Sew, wonderfully, they download classes (some of which are wonderful and thereby they support that teacher), they order on the Internet (maybe even from their local fabric store)…but they order and they take classes, they buy that fabric and thread and machines.  This activity will keep the industry alive even if it doesn’t help our neighborhood fabric store with the owners who have been in business for decades and are ready to retire to do their own sewing.

Red, my favorite color, is not as plentiful in my home as I would have expected. I staged this in my studio using the red things I could find that seemed to go together. Interesting challenge. Shot with my Nikon D200 on tripod, no flash, f14.

I hope we will continue to support each other and encourage the “ancient quilter” making something spectacularly different, the middle-aged man sewing a vintage costume, the college student making something for their dorm room, or the twelve year old boy quilting.  Let’s keep this industry alive with enthusiasm even as it changes to encompass the new methods of communication and shopping!

DSCN0129

Sew happy everyone!  I loved Linda Thielfoldt’s blog about mentoring new young sewers.  This is important.  Might I suggest, also, that it does not just have to be a young person (though, again, this is important)…an older person with a little more time and money on their hands might also want to get in on the fun and then pass it on to their young person.

Studio Revamp: Throw Away, Give Away, Keep…Repeat

Now that I have ordered my Bernina Q20, I have to prepare a place for it by mid June.  This is a pretty big project, because it involves reorganizing my whole upper level, starting with my bedroom and master bath (there are drawers in there).  I have to eliminate one of my two dressers from my bedroom, move the Koala cabinet where I use my alternative machines into my bedroom where the dresser is now, and finish up with some reduction of fabrics and other assorted junk and a good vacuuming and dusting.

So I have begun by cleaning out the dresser I intend to keep, and I found a whole big black bag of old work things to toss and a bag of things give away in that dresser.  I no longer wear panty hose, business tops, and skirted suits except on very rare occasions.  Back when I worked, wore these everyday.  Now my “uniform” is a long sleeved shirt or top, a pair of jeans, and socks and shoes. So I will keep a few business dress outfits and get rid of the rest.

I have fashion fabrics in under bed storage boxes.  These are currently out in the room and need to be sorted and put back.  There you will find some lovely woolens, silks, and other dressy/business fabrics.  I will probably keep a few and give away the rest.  Every now and then I want to sew some clothing, but I don’t need that much and the clothes I want to make are different for me now.

I should have done this right after I retired in January 2012, and, in fact, I did a little, but I was still attached to things, thinking I would wear them, but I haven’t at all.  I now think they look dowdy, no longer match my coloring, (I have let my hair go natural, with lots of gray and it looks a little blond), and I have a different life style altogether.  So I will be able to do this without a problem…just a lot of work.  And in the end, I will be much happier with my bedroom as well as my studio.

Then if I have time before the machine gets here, I am going to prune my stash down so it all fits in the generous storage units I have for them and give the studio a good cleaning.  My taste in quilting fabrics has changed over the past few years as well.

Sew happy everyone!  Is it time to spring clean your bedroom and studio?  When done well, it helps the work flow for a long time, I think.

A Journey to Art Quilts…One Problem Set at a Time

I am not yet seventy and have been sewing for over 60 years, having begun when I was 4 or 5.  It may seem odd, but I clearly remember sewing as a small child on my small Singer, set up next to my Mom while she sewed on her “big machine”. I made Barbie doll clothes (the only real good use for a Barbie, as far as I was concerned), pot holders, and the skirt for a dressing table at first. When I was about  eight I made my first complete dress.  It was quilting fabric, I believe, with maps and sailing ships and so forth on a blue background.  It had box pleats for the skirt and a simple top with, yes, set in sleeves.  I remember wearing it to school with great happiness and not a little pride.  From that time until the present, I made many things… bags, hats, dresses, wedding dresses, tailored suits–even men’s tuxedos–men’s ties, scarves, overcoats, fur coats, and just about anything for the home, but I did not quilt.

On October 1 of 2003, the love of my life passed away and I subsequently moved to be near my oldest son and his wife who were expecting my grandson.  Shortly after I moved, my daughter-in-law, who had taken up quilting and enjoyed it so much that she bought a longarm for her own use, suggested that I might enjoy quilting.  And so it began…

Now I had done just a few wall hangings and fabric as art before this time, making my church’s banners, and a few other wall hangings, but they were not quilts, and they were a long long ways in quality from where I am now as to what I can make for a show quilt.

Sew I set about to learn to quilt about a year after his passing.  It was a great solace to my sore heart following the death of Marvin.  I had something new and grand to learn, because I found that even though I could make almost anything else using fabric and thread, I could not make a very good quilt.  Surprise! It took me several years because I was working, hard, for the government at the time.

The quilts I made at first had really bad bindings, the designs were mediocre, and the quilting wasn’t very good.  They weren’t terrible, because I was, after all, a professional quality sewist.  But I was not a quilter, and I wanted to compete.  Using someone else’s patterns never really occurred to me.  I really don’t know why.

The best thing that happened in this journey was that Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims decided to pull together The Quilt Show on the Internet in 2007.  They brought in the great quilters who demonstrated how to do things…and one by one I picked up a new skill or tool and ran with it.  Given my long solid background of sewing and art, I could pick up the techniques with just one show, which I was able to watch over and over.  Sometimes, I bought a book that was mentioned and then I started taking classes with these great quilters themselves whenever I could get to a quilt show.  More recently, I have found online classes that are available and I can take them right here at my own studio, and yes, I still take classes.  What a great thing!

When I first became aware of the use of paint on quilts as an art form I was opposed to its use, thinking it wasn’t, somehow, right.  How silly of me.  The first time I realized I was wrong was when I saw Hollis Chatelain’s Precious Water, which took Best of Show in Houston in 2004.  If you look at her work, you will realize it is beyond question fine art that is not only beautifully painted, but a well crafted quilt in fabric and thread, and truly worthy of the prize. The competitive traditional quilting world was really shaken over this, I think.  Many felt that quilts are supposed to be for the bed, to cuddle with, to love, to wrap your baby with, and were not meant to ever be art for your wall.  Or if you did use it as art for your wall, it should be to show the great beauty of this historic traditional craft and only traditional.  I am sure that many still feel that way today, however…

…quilters are a loving and inclusive group as a whole, and not very many of them are what one might endearingly refer to as “old biddies” or “quilt police”.   This past several years I have witnessed art quilts move from shocking other quilters to a position of their own in the show quilting world.  These quilts take all kinds of forms…now you can make a traditional quilt as art just to show on the wall, and that is grand, but you can also use the quilt as your medium to produce art of many styles and be respected for it.  Exquisite, interesting, modern, and often full of emotional pull  art designs can now be realized in fabric, thread, paint, beads, and other embellishments, and be treated with the same respect as the exquisite traditional quilts and contemporary quilts have always been in the show world.  And the wonderful thing is that this in no way has diminished the great appreciation of the traditional beauties also shown.  It is hard now to predict whether a traditional quilt. a contemporary quilt,  or an art quilt will take Best of Show just from the category alone.  They have become side by side equals.  I hope you feel that is a grand thing.

I see little glimmers here and there that the traditional art world may even be beginning to warm to such show quilts as “real”art.  I suspect, however, that this one will take even longer to be seen by the traditional art world as side by side equals to the more traditional forms of art of painting and sculpture.

So what is required of me, as a now professional art quilter, to continuously reach higher as both an artist and a quilter? I believe it is imperative in keeping the creativity alive to constantly reach beyond one’s abilities to pull meaningful art out and share it with people.  It is just plain fun too.

How is this done?

I just came home from watching the movie made from the fabulous book by Andy Weir “The Martian”.  I found it inspiring.  It is largely the story of how the people involved, and in particular the protagonist who was the guy left on Mars in the mistaken belief he was dead, solved the enormous problem they were faced with on how to keep him alive until rescue could come, and how to rescue him.  Each vastly overwhelming problem was approached by solving a smaller set of problems and each of those sets by solving each part of that problem one step at a time, and readjusting as new problems arise.  Never giving up was the key.

This is the same approach I try to take on a much lesser scale to creating my art in the form of quilts.  I see so many things in the world surrounding me that inspire visions of quilts within my mind.  I must have a hundred quilt ideas tucked away in the recesses of my mind by now and new ones come nearly every day.  So I must first solve which quilts I will actually make, and draw out the design.  I ignore whether or not I think I can do this design or not until I actually start making it…breaking it down into individual problem sets and breaking those down into individual steps.  Sometimes along the way, I change the design because the original concept did not work.  So now it becomes something doable.  My mother used to constantly say “inch by inch it’s a cinch”.  She was right.

Of course, this approach came from my mother and father.  It carried me through my life as a wife and mother and my years of work for the Federal government where I did work I can not tell you about, but the approach was often the same to accomplishing anything difficult…break it down into workable components and do that.  It’s the same approach as it takes to make a man’s tailored suit…accomplishing each section one by one and finally putting it all together and then adding the final touches.  It is the same approach one must use to make a fabulous traditional quilt…one section at a time…one small component at a time…just don’t give up and fix the mistakes along the way.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my more unusual and difficult to make quilts won a ribbon for “Best Use of Color” in its category.  It was “Sky Horse”, which had also been shown at last year’s Houston show.  I hope to make more deep space quilts based on NASA’s great photos they have that are (mostly) copyright free.  I am taking an online class right now on painting nebula using Corel Painter 16, and have found it giving me many ideas on how I can improve future nebula quilts.  And in some ways as meaningful as a ribbon, one of my smaller quilts was just appraised in replacement value alone (does not include the design work) for over five thousand dollars by an AQS certified appraiser.  I have a friend who just sold one of her smaller art quilts about the same size (that also just won a Best of Show) for ten thousand dollars to an art collector.  This, my dear friends, seems to be progress to me for us art quilters.  May it continue, and wish me well as I try to make however many of the quilts buzzing around in my mind I can before I either get too old or join Marvin in heaven (whichever happens first).

Sew happy everyone!  Make that master quilt or piece of furniture or tailored suit or amazing decorated cake you have always thought you couldn’t do…solving one problem set at a time.  Oh, rest assured that I still love the traditional quilts made to cuddle and made for the bed, the lap, the baby, and the dog…well worth the making and a treasure to love.