Bunches to Do

This nice drawing is from Dover’s Chinese Designs. Whatever would I do without Dover!

 

Oh, dear readers, you knew it was coming didn’t you?  I have gotten to the place where I am feeling a bit swamped with things to do.  That’s why I have been lagging in my blog writing. It would be ok except I seem not to have time to do my favorite thing right now…work on show quilts.  And I have show quilts that need to be made!!!

Sew I am preparing for a book signing party on April 20th and four classes I will be running at G Street Fabrics in Rockville MD this spring.  Each has handouts that need to be updated or created and kits that need to be assembled.

  1. Fabric Arts 1:  Machine Applique Techniques
  2. Fabric Arts 2:  Feed Dogs Up Quilting (on a Domestic Machine)
  3. Fabric Arts 3: Free Motion Organic Quilting (on a Sitdown Machine)
  4. Fabric Arts 4:  Ruler Work Quilting for Sitdown Machines

The real project right now is for my church, that asked myself and my bff Anita to make a new Easter banner for the church.  I was already swamped, and the addition of this project is a bit of a time draw.  Fortunately, Anita has been working with me for over a year now to learn to use fabric and thread as a medium for her own art.  So she is doing most of the work, though not all, but coming here to do it where I have the machines and tables and paints and bunches of fabric and thread.  LOL.  I am doing a lot of the specialty items, like machine embroidering the words and guiding the methods.

Easter banner concept drawing

In case you didn’t know, I now have published both Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 and Twelve Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V8.  So if you have one of these programs for digitizing your in-the-hoop embroidery, you might find this of interest.  I beg you, please, if you buy the book and like it, please please write a review on Amazon.  It does not have to be very long…just a single sentence or a couple of sentences.  Reviews really help the authors.  So far I have a single review on both books.  Much appreciated, but I need more.

                                New book!!!

Sew I am preparing to do a book signing at G Street on April 20th, and plan to show some demo videos of the software.  This has taken me a considerable bit to learn how to do these videos…live screen capture, editing the resulting videos, trying to get them right.  I will post these on my new YouTube channel (Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts), when I get them complete.

And the fourth workshop listed above for G Street..the ruler work..is not fully designed yet.  I have been working on making a sampler and made much progress on what I want to show and teach, but it isn’t done yet!!! Yikes!!! It also will provide a kit with a little quilt sandwich, premarked with some guidelines.

Show Quilts…what am I doing, or trying to get time to do? 

  • The Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics.. Due July 1st.  I have the fabric, I have a design concept…will I get the time?  It’s small, so that helps, only 20 inches by 20 inches, but it will need a bit of time.
  • A train quilt with a steam locomotive to showcase a number of interesting applique and embellishment techniques. No real deadline, but I would love to finish it in time for the fall Mancuso show in Oak Pennsylvania.  Deadline is sometime in August.
  • A stack of other interesting, fun, hopefully beautiful, other ideas I won’t discuss right now.

So to top it all off, I am working on another book..the first in a series of Quilted Art Techniques books.  My concept right now…subject to change, of course…is for three books talking about techniques…one on building the top, one on quilting the quilt, and one on surface design and embellishment.  The challenge for these is to provide a way forward for quilted art without just being the same-old same-old that is already out there.  That’s a big challenge, but I also still think there is room for me to present my techniques in a way that will help artists and/or quilters to accomplish a vision they have in their heads but haven’t been able to do until now, or were had not yet figured out the steps to take.

Sew happy everyone!  I have not abandoned my hope to do a weekly or more blog post talking about adventures in fabric art.  Have fun in your studio, even if it is just a small space! 

 

Happy 2019! Let’s Make this a Wonderful Year!

I always love the beginning of a new year.  It is like turning a page on a well-worn journal that may not have worked out like we wanted and finding a crisp new space to fill with fabulous adventures. As some of my long-term readers probably realize, I like to publish my creative goals in my blogs and then see how much of them I can accomplish.  It’s a challenge!

For 2019 I have four avenues for fabric and thread play planned and the timing has worked out so I am at the beginning of them all, which makes it all the more exciting.

  1. Landscape quilts, using a variety of applique techniques, threads, couched yarns and roving I hope to develop  pictorial quilts with a lot of dimension. I don’t know how many of these I will make, but I have two already planned–think “train” and the little Bob Ross challenge by Cherrywood Fabrics…and I hope to make more.  I am thinking of developing a book on these techniques along the way, now that I know I can publish my own highly-illustrated books with some degree of professionalism.
  2. Experimental quilt(s), developing a couple of wild ideas I have had floating around for a while.  These include first of all polyester crepe-back satin which will also include some in-the-hoop embroidery that I digitize myself on Bernina design software V8 and develop a Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina v8, as an update to my new book on v7, that will be coming early in January. And secondly, seeing what I can do with some of the really beautiful commercial panels available and/or develop some background panels of my own for sale.  Both of these things offer real possibilities for quilters with limited budgets, time, or confidence. Blogs will be coming.
  3. Workshops, that I will be teaching a repeat to the ones on developing fabric art that I taught at G Street Fabrics this past fall and will be adding a basic ruler work workshop…all scheduled for April and May already.  I am all ready for the first three except for making a few additional kits, and I still have to make the sample and kits for the ruler workshop…one week of preparation should do the trick.
  4. Videos showing especially working with my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm and possibly more.  I have all the equipment, and this week I successfully went through the whole process to come out with one really terrible video, but I now know the process and will be practicing until I get it all just right.  I hope to share these as inspiration for people here on my blog.

I am very excited about all this. It may seem too much, but I don’t think it is given how I hope to build quilt projects together with books, blogs, and videos, getting multiple uses out of the same work with only a small addition of work. We’ll see…(oh! and I also will be continuing the work on my appliqued quilt using a Sue Nickel‘s pattern I am making for my bed, but that’s just for relaxation and fun).

I was inspired to tackle improvements in my landscape quilts first by Bethanne Nemesh’s videos on yarn couching on her own quilts, then by the success I had in using yarn couching for tree limbs and 12 weight wool threads on my Night on the Bayou quilt for producing Spanish Moss, and finally by my purchase of the Bernina attachment for my little Bernina 350 that does needle punch.  So I am going to put all this together with the applique quilting and embellishment techniques I already do and see what comes out.

I was also interested in how well a little testing of the leftovers of the crepe-back heavy satin I used for my coat did in quilting that I feel I need to make at least one and possibly more quilts using this product.  I think it offers some great possibilities and it’s a lot cheaper than the now-discontinued silk/cotton Radiance.  The every day quilter with a limited budget may find this a wonderful way to go. We’ll see, and I will write about it, at least in my blog if not a whole book.

Sew happy everyone.  Peace and love be yours as we begin 2019. Encourage those around you. Let’s make this a wonderful year full of peace, love, and yes, fun! May God bless you and yours.  Let the celebrations begin!

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!

 

Fall Fabric Art Workshops

I am excited about my upcoming workshops I will be teaching at G Street Fabrics in Rockville this fall.  If you are in the area, please sign up and come.  I understand there are still a few spaces.  These three six hour workshops provide the basic techniques I use in building and quilting most of my wall art quilts.  There will only be eight students with each workshop, to give me time to be available for each student and answer questions.

September 22, 11am to 5pm.  Fabric Art Workshop 1: Applique Techniques to make a top ready for quilting.

Kits for the workshops are available for purchase that includes everything the students need for the projects that will enable everyone to complete or nearly complete each project.  For the applique workshop, the leaves, birds, and dog or cat are all precut with fusible on the back. The student gets to put it all together like he or she wants and different edge finishes are taught as well as how one might choose which finish is discussed.  Threads, needles, and other supplies are included as well as the handouts.

The two quilting classes also have kits of premarked sandwiches with everything one needs to plunge right in and start quilting.

October 6, 11 am to 5 pm:  This is the project for Fabric Arts Workshop II: Quilting with feed dogs up.  Kit has premarked sandwich, thread, a needle, and handouts.

The students will learn there are many interesting results that can be obtained with their feed dogs up.  Of course, a walking foot would always be helpful, but will not be required for this class.  It’s a small 20 x 20 sandwich.

 

October 20, 11am to 5pm, Fabric Arts Workshop III:  Free motion organic quilting.  The Kit for the free motion quilting project is a lightly marked sandwich, with a leaf applique ready to start the class.,  It also includes thread, a needle, and handouts.

Sew I don’t address how to square up and bind a quilt, but I do provide references as to where you can get that information.  There is another part of my work that is also not included and that is surface design and embellishment.  However, I started my art quilt career just using the techniques covered here, and learned how to bind off the internet.  I am considering how I might do a workshop in surface design and embellishment, but not sure I’ll do it yet.  I do provide a bit of information on how you can pull together a design for such projects in the course of the workshops.

Come join me.  There are 8 slots per class and some have already been filled, but if you hurry you might get in.  Contact G Street Fabrics  and ask for the Sewing machine department.

Meanwhile, I’ll go back to making kits…LOL

 

 

How to Stop Fearing Your Machine and Start Having Fun

I love this picture from early in the twentieth century.

Periodically in some of my Facebook groups that are focused around quilting and sewing I see a surprising number of people who have sewing or quilting machines they are truly afraid to use.  Now I can see how this might happen.  Today’s machines are often technically advanced, big, powerful, and fast.  That can be very intimidating, especially if you fear making mistakes on your creations or breaking your machine.  Maybe you are afraid of sewing through your fingers.  Maybe you think you can’t possibly figure out how to use that advanced machine.  These are legitimate fears, but you can take steps to stop them in their tracks.

Let’s talk about this a little.  In almost any creative situation you can figure out how to make an approach of taking things apart and moving step by step to find you can do far far more than you ever thought you could.  And yes, you will almost certainly mess up, make mistakes, have to unstitch, break a needle, break some thread, or even mess up so badly you throw a project away.  Give yourself permission to throw things away, and realize they have served their purpose in teaching you something.  This is just sign of progress and that you tried.  So here is my suggested method to overcome the fear of your machines, or even to advance your understanding of them:

  • Read the manual of your machine.  Yes, read it even if you have been sewing for 65 plus years, even if it is a somewhat simpler machine, or even if it’s boring or you don’t understand it, but read it anyway.  Later you will remember that there is an answer to a question you have along the way in your manual so you can go back and look it up in the index at the back when you need it.  You don’t have to remember it until you need it.  You just have to remember that there is an answer there.  Sometimes you may find you do things differently with this machine than you did with your mom’s machine you learned on.  If you don’t find the manual, they are often online free for download.
  • Get yourself a small notebook and make notes as you go.  Keep a record of your steps, the settings on your machine you used for what. Even after 65 years plus of sewing, I still keep notes on projects I do.  It’s so handy when I want to do it again, or have gone out of my project to hem my new jeans and need to get back to where I was on my project.  I have also taken those notes and made spreadsheets or lists that I can print out and stick on my wall for reference.
  • Take advantage of the tools your machine has.  These tools include both the functional tools built into your machine and the accessories (specialty feet, magnifying glass, differing sole plates, optional threading aids, cleaning aids, pinpoint lasers, and other things).  Yes, you have spent a lot buying your machine…so spend a little more and get those specialty feet as you need them for particular projects.  It makes your initial investment truly worth it.
  • Realize that even if you paid a lot for your machines they are not perfect (nothing manufactured is, really!), but usually they will work if you do things right.  They may have some things that might go awry from time to time.  So join those Facebook groups where you can ask what other people do about some things, look in the manual near the end where they have the section usually entitled  “Troubleshooting”, go on YouTube to find if it is something you can fix yourself (if you have a Bernina, take a look at Bernina Boys  on YouTube), contact your machine’s online support (I can’t tell you how many problems I have gotten solved this way without having to lug my machines to the dealer), or yes, lug your machine to the dealer and get that problem fixed.  But start with a cleaning, check on the tensions, and change the needle…maybe even change the thread.
  • And if you are not getting that nagging problem fixed by your dealer, contact the manufacturer (using the online support) and ask them what to do.  Remember, they WANT you to be happy with your machine.  If you are happy with your machine you will tell others about it, and they will buy one.  If you are happy with your machine, you might buy another one that has another function (I have three Berninas).  But I will suggest that if you buy a solid advanced machine and LEARN HOW TO USE IT, you will almost certainly be amazed at what you can do with it.

    My Bernina 830 LE named Gibbs

  • Realize that, surprisingly, sometimes it is the thread, the needle, and something amiss with your machine.  But normally problems can be solved by cleaning the machine, changing the tensions. using a different sized needle, or just replacing a needle that may be slightly bent or have a blunt end.
  • Learning to use your particular machine is like learning to play a new instrument.  You HAVE TO PRACTICE!!!  Yes, practice a little bit frequently and a lot once in a while at the very least.  Practice even if you have sewn for 65 plus years.  Practice is just that.  You are making a practice piece…something that may even end up in the trash.  But this can be really fun.  Remember that..it’s ultimately fun!

    My Bernina B350 named Edith Claire (E.Claire) after Edith Head.

     

  • Plan out your project in small steps.  Prepare your pieces (make the markings you need to make).  Be sure you have the right threads, needles, backings, battings, stabilizers and interfacings on hand.  These things make using your machine so much easier.

    My Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

     

  • And finally, if you have a computerized machine, make sure you keep it updated with the latest updates.  Sometimes the updates are put out primarily to correct some bug they have discovered and so you won’t have that problem happen to you.  Sometimes they add new stitches or new functions.  Find out how to do this in your manual.

Here I have attached a pdf file to print out a small practice project for free motion quilting.  It is sized so you can print it out with normal letter sized paper and tape it together.  Then use it as a marking guide for your fabric.

FMQ Practice

I developed it for a FMQ workshop I will be teaching at the sewing machine department at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland in October of this year.  I’d love to see you there.  There are only eight spots for students, so call them (ask for sewing machine department) and reserve your space.  It’s about organic fmq for fabric artists…no fancy feathers, but lots of fun.  I’m also teaching a class on 22 September in Machine Applique for Fabric Artists, and one in October on Feed Dogs Up Quilting for Fabric Artists.

Sew happy everyone.  Go read your manual and practice.  Then have some fun making a wonderful project.  You will be happy you conquered your machines…well almost conquered…or at least learned to use them.  LOL

 

Fireflies, Workshops, Quilt Names, and Other Stuff

 Yes, Virginia, I am alive!

So sorry to have been away for such a long time.  I have been working hard up until last Friday when I came down with some kind of aweful stomach thingy that hit me like a truck.  I’m all better now, though taking it easy for a few more days, but it did cut into my work schedule.

Before that, I was finishing up my latest show quilt..the Bayou quilt that I have not yet named.  I still have to put the crystals on the fireflies, and get professional photos of the quilt, but here is my little snap I took with my small camera:

So do you have any suggestions for the name?  Here are some ideas…I don’t know that I like any of them;

Home on the Bayou, Bayou at Night, Among the Cyprus, Cyprus Night, Cyprus Shelter, Bayou Night Lights, Bayou Cyprus, Bayou Summer Night, Summertime Night on the Bayou, Fireflies at Play (they will show up better with crystals), Night among the Cyprus.

I was disappointed with the supposedly glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.  It does have some nice pigment in it, and looks kind of nice enhancing the lights, but it doesn’t really glow in the dark very much. So the fireflies are the most disappointing, and I have obtained the tiniest little yellow and slightly orange hot fix crystals to enhance all the painted fireflies.  Otherwise the quilt is complete except for a label.  I even have the rod pocket on it.  I plan to try to debut it at Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza this coming fall. I have no idea where I will send it after that, but I will send it elsewhere for about a year or more.  This quilt has taken me a great many hours.  I don’t have any idea how many.

A Little Soapbox  Rant:

See the source image

With the efforts I put into my own show quilts in mind…I was just watching Craft in America.   The episode they showed today was talking about craft as a livelihood.  They featured Gee’s  Bend quilters among other artisans.  Their quilting style is beautiful and carries on a tradition I am very happy to see in the country.  But I found myself wondering if Craft in America ever had or ever would feature quilt artisans that use contemporary quilting methods and styles (even those who do it all by hand), make exquisite jewels of quilts contemporary, modern, or traditional, or artists that use quilting as their medium sometimes using many techniques in one project.  I somehow doubt it because many responsible for producing such shows, or writing articles about quilts, seem to think the development of quilting, styles, techniques and the craft itself stopped at the water’s edge of the late 19th century.  They probably are not even aware of where the quilt world has flown over the past few decades.  Have they even attended one of the national or international quilt shows?  Do they even know it is a thriving industry economically and deserves attention?  And indeed, it is not just the media that is unaware, as those of us who quilt are well aware.  How often have I told someone I quilt, and they said their [grandma, great grandma, aunt] used to quilt [back when they were alive or physically able].    And finally, I hope you will read Joe Cunningham’s blog Calvin Klein and Me discussing this issue way better than I am here.

Sew what am I working on now?

Feed Dogs Up workshop sampler

Well, right now I’m writing a blog post…but my current project set is to make the samplers, handouts, and kits for three Fabric Arts Workshops I am going to lead at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland this fall.  They are fairly basic, but are designed to provide a suite of techniques that can be used to make quilted fabric art and, of course, some quilting techniques.  They do not include piecing.  I am not a piecer. G Street has quilters who lead some really nice piecing workshops.  So here are my workshops:

  • Fabric Arts Workshop 1:  Applique Techniques — Saturday, 22 September 11 am to 5 pm
  • Fabric Arts Workshop 2: Feed Dogs Up Quilting on a Domestic Machine — Saturday, 6 October 11 am to 5 pm
  • Fabric Arts Workshop 3:  Free Motion Organic Quilting at a Sitdown Machine –, 20 October 11 am to 5 pm

If these go well, I might take them on the road to shows and guilds within a four or five hour driving distance from Ashburn, VA, or just try to do them locally (within an hour’s drive).  I might also add one or two more complex workshops to these.  The nice thing is that some of the work I am doing for these can also be used in the books I’m writing.  Maybe I’ll even be able to publish one of my books before the workshops this fall.

But fear not, I am also making some quilts, just at a slower pace.  I am making a bed quilt (shock!) for myself using a Sue Nickel’s applique quilt pattern.  I have only just begun working on a new design for one of my Ancient Manuscript series quilts.  Actually, truth be told, I have only come up with the idea and haven’t really started the design.  Happy National Sewing Machine day! (this is 6/13/18).

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on?  Let me know.  Send me pictures. Make comments.  I really want to hear from you.  Hopefully, now, I am back to making about a blog a week or more.