Space and Quilts

The Heavens declare the glory of God…(Psalm 19:1) 

Wow!  This week with the eclipse and spending that time with my 14 year-old grandson Kevin was soooo special!  We had eighty-five percent of the eclipse in a pure clear sky with the birds and the noisy cicadas in the woods behind us.  His parents, who are serious astronomy hobbyists, headed down to Tennessee to get in a total eclipse area, but he did not want to spend that long in the car.  The traffic for them was aweful and they had to spend an extra night in a motel on the way home, so he clearly made the right choice for him and it gave me and his uncle David a real special time together with Kevin even though it was not total here.  I am told Ken got some photos to process of the eclipse.  I am looking forward to seeing them.

This comes at an interesting time in my quilting life, because I am trying to line up a couple of new deep space quilts to fill out my space series inspired by the fabulous photos found in the NASA gallery.  The pictures have to be copyright free for me.  I have tried a couple of times to get in touch with the astronomers whose pictures NASA sometimes shows that are copyrighted and they simply ignore my inquiries.  But there are many many magnificent copyright free photos available to use for the basis of new quilts.  I will probably also include a couple of space quilts that may use other techniques inspired by Ken’s (oldest son, Kevin’s Dad) and Beth’s (his wife) photography and ideas.  I am planning on writing about making space quilts and including all of these in the book.  This will probably be a part of my ongoing project of Art Quilt Basics:  Surface Design and Embellishment that I hope to get published this year.  These quilts are practically all surface design and embellishment with organic, but well planned, quilting.  They are very hard to photograph because of all the light reflection, but I leave that to Ken, who does a credible job on it.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3: See this quilt in the upcoming MQX Midwest show!

So I am currently on the hunt for my next deep space quilt photo inspirations.  If you have a favorite, let me know in a comment  but do it soon, because I’m going to start working on this next space quilt very soon. 😄

I hope you are all having fun with your art, sewing, or quilting.  I’m busy drawing up a couple of new ideas and making sampler quiltlets to include in my book project Art Quilt Basics:  Machine Quilting for Art Quilters (this book starts with the very basics for machine quilting (both feed dogs up and free motion) and moves through the process ending with a discussion and ideas specific for art quilters.

Sew happy everyone!  Make yourselves a stack of small quilt sandwiches and play.  You’ll be surprised how much fun it is…use all your machines.  You will benefit by improving your skills and having a lot of fun too.  Cheers.

 

A Word About My Art Quilting and Some Early Quilts

                  Fandance by Moonlight. Hoffman Challenge

2008This is my very first show quilt and you can see the scotch tape on my photograph…LOL.  So you can see my professional side of show quilting has grown as well as my quilt making abilities.

As I prepare for my upcoming exhibit of my work at G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, one of the things they wanted was for me to provide my Hoffman Challenge quilts, which, if you look at them carefully, you can see my progress as both an artist and a quilter from year to year.  Unlike some of my quilty friends who make a quilt, enter it, and win big, I have struggled, indeed still struggle, to move my art quilting to a truly professional level, but it has been fun along the way. I love making art in fabrics, threads, and paints.  I think my artist side has been a little slower in developing than my quilting techniques, but I’m working on it.

“Equipped to Stand” 2012
Even though I can now see many flaws in both the design and the quilting making techniques on this quilt, I still love it. I would never send this quilt out for show today, but we all learn. They let it into several shows and the judges were sweet about it and their remarks didn’t bash me down to the point I quit quilting.  Unlike this photo, it is square and relatively flat, though I had to undo a lot of it to get a wave out of it.  You can see it was not all that long ago.  I have come a looong ways from here.  If they had torn it apart, I might have quit.

To me, an art quilt needs to have a lot of elements come together to make it good and this is what I am always striving for. Starting with the basic design concept  I draw the concept while considering balance, value, color, placement, perspective, and simply artistic appeal.  I am constantly attempting to learn more about all this through practice, books (some left from art classes in college and some collected over the years), and, more recently, online training.  I’m still trying.

So here is my process for a complex show quilt (not for all of my quilts).

I try to capture the concept that is in my head or the inspirational photo by drawing the picture of the planned quilt on my computer, thereby providing me with a “pattern” .  Here is how I work through this.

  • I use Corel Draw to draw out some elements, like buildings or space ships, and saving them with a transparent background as a .png file, which will import into other packages without a background.
  • I use Corel Painter, a truly powerful digital painting software, to draw the main picture, importing the items from Corel Draw and placing them where they belong.  I size it here and save with iterative painter files and finally as a .jpg.
  • I may go back and forth between Corel Draw and Corel Painter several times because one program is better than another for various things.
  • If I am putting borders on the quilt I will then move to Electric Quilt and set it up with a single block sized properly for my .jpg.  Then I play with the borders until I like them.  This gives me the pattern for the borders.  I save this as a .jpg.
  • I move back to Corel Draw and start a new file (you can’t just open a .jpg in Corel Draw, but you can import one).  I import the design I saved in Electric Quilt into Corel Draw and size  the image to the size I want the quilt to finish.  Corel Draw has a wonderful way of tiling the picture into sizes that match the printer paper with symbols to mark where they join.  I usually print the pattern on a 11″x 17″ paper.  I print one pattern in color and one in gray scale.  I also print the border pattern from EQ7.
  • I tape the pattern together carefully.
  • Then I pin the colored print on my design wall, or tape it somewhere if that is occupied, and sit there looking at it every now and then, wondering how on Earth I am going to accomplish this quilt.  At this point, I take time off from this particular project if I have time.  This is why I usually have some ongoing simple quilt or clothing projects so I can go work on something else while the concept “marinates” in my mind and I talk to myself…sometimes exclaiming “Oh THAT’s what I can try!”  I’m glad my son’s flat is on the lower level, and is not in my studio to hear me, he might be looking for “a place for Mom”, although, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy writer so probably not.
  • I keep a notebook nearby to write down my ideas.

Once I’ve figured out more or less how I’m going to make the quilt, I just jump in.  I first shop my stash to see if I have what I need for this quilt and buy the rest, including fabrics, threads, paints, and other embellishments.  After all my years of sewing and quilting my stash is now such that often I am able to complete a quilt without buying anything, or buying only one item.  It generally takes me nearly half the time of total time making a quilt to get to this point.

  • I have to take one or two elements of the quilt at a time.
  • I make samples and try things until I find what works.
  • I have to figure what must come first…usually working from background forward.
  • I take photos along the way because for some reason I can see mistakes better in a photograph than directly looking at the project.  I think I get too close to it, as they say.
  • I unsew and go backwards when I need to, but try to limit this as much as possible.  Sometimes “mistakes” are actually result in a good new direction.

As I construct the quilt, I pay close attention to how flat and square the project is becoming along the way. It’s ok not to have a square quilt, but it has to be deliberately not square and obviously not intended to be square.  Construction techniques really still need to be right. This often involves my ripping things out for correction, and sometimes even just starting over. I have obtained a laser square and a laser cross-hair lamp to help me with this

I’m not a piecer, but sometimes I have to piece.  “Pendragon” had the main center block, and ten border and text block pieces that all HAD to be square and straight and the border had to be lined up so the designs were straight and in the right place.  This is one of the more challenging things for me, because, did I say it?  I’m not a piecer.  Piecing is much more challenging to me than it must be to traditional quilters, who seem to love it.  I piece when I have to in order to realize my design.  I sometimes use foundation paper piecing when I need a real quilt block, like I did for “Waiting…” and “Drawing Nigh”.  So I’m very happy to have these tools and techniques to help me piece.

Sew once I have completed the top, including any highlighting or lowlighting I do with fabric paints and inks, I sandwich my quilt mostly using basting adhesive and rulers to get the lines that need to be straight and square right and adding some quilting pins because I use a very light amount of adhesive spray on the batting only.  This is my least favorite thing of making a quilt and I find it physically taxing, especially if it has to be on the floor because of size, and I wear a mask and often have to do it over and over again until it is right.

Then I quilt it, bind it, add a pocket, a label, and block it.  My oldest son Ken photographs it at his home in my daughter-in-law’s wonderfully big studio where her longarm and her Bernina 880 resides.  Beth was, afterall, the one who pulled me into quilting after Marvin died because she was sure I would love it.  I’m not sure she expected me to love it as much as I do, and I know she didn’t expect me to move into the art quilt world.  Before this happened, I had made several pieces of fabric art, had sewn for most of my life, used to have my own fashion design and tailoring business, and made my own clothes and some of Marvin’s.  I found art quilting simply unleashed and pulled together all the sewing and art skills I had learned in my life, but I did need to learn a lot before it was any good.

And I’m still learning, experimenting, and moving through art quilting.  Maybe someday I’ll start winning the big ribbons (I have won a few ribbons, but no BOS).

Sew are any of you making our free design art quilt with me introduced in my last blog post?  How’s it coming?  I’m not rushing you.  It will probably be another couple of weeks or month before I get to the next step.  I’m preparing for my exhibit and I figure the first step is a big one.

Sew happy everyone!

 

 

Make a Stylized Landscape Quilt with Me: Step One

I am making a fun new design-as-you-go stylized landscape quilt with some kind of flying creature and I hope you will try one of these too. For as many steps as it takes (to be determined) I will be providing a blog post to take us through this quilt together.  This quilt is made without first drawing out and printing a full sized design and will be using techniques that I am sure you may wish to try or have tried already.  I am not providing a pattern, telling you what size it will be, or even tutorials for all the techniques needed.  This is a project for us to play together making some wall art.  I will tell you where you can find the techniques, providing the links, and for some parts I will give tutorials, but not all.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, with guidance as to where you can find help.  And if you have a question all you have to do is make a comment on the blog post and I will respond as soon as I can.

Let’s begin:

I am using some interesting techniques available online at Iquilt and Craftsy.  But you don’t have to take a class for this project, just follow along.  If you have Electric quilt 7 and know how to do foundation paper piecing you, or you already know how to make a compass block, you can do this without additional classes.

For this fun project there are several objects we will need to make and obtain.

  1. Challenge–Make The Sun:  This can be either a simple quarter of a large circle of fabric to applique on a sky or one quarter of a sun compass block or a smaller full stylized star block in your choice of sun colors for your imaginary world.  For my quilt I am using the star block that Karen K. Stone teaches in “English Paper Piecing by Machine” found on iquilt here.  It’s very similar to a regular compass block, but has some interesting differences.  If you watch the sales, you can almost certainly get this class on a very good sale.  But there are a lot of beautiful choices for a star to represent our own star, the sun.  Here are some I found on Electric Quilt 7 that would be great choices with some color changes.  The outside large piece, or the background pieces need to be made from the same fabric as your background sky piece (see below), or you can use the curve to applipiece or piecelique (whatever you call it…it’s just joining the two pieces in an applique manner) it directly into the background sky.  I will provide a little tutorial of this in my next blog related to this project.  So just hold off on attaching the star/sun to the background sky.
  2. These blocks were all found in Electric Quilt 7 and would work very nicely. You can change the colors, of course, however you want them.

    In addition you could draft your own compass rose. I found this fascinating method on The Quilt Show that uses a really neat drafting device available from  Renea Haddadin’s website here.  I don’t have this device, but it really looks useful far beyond the drafting of a compass rose.

  3. Put together the background:  For this you will need a full width of ombre gradiated fabric that will be one third of the length of your finished quilt, or just a plain piece of fabric that looks like a sky to you.  You can paint this, buy this, or construct this with strips of various pieces of fabric.   You just have to size the sun appropriately to fit in the upper left corner of the scene.  Two thirds of your quilt will be mountains and maybe water or grass somewhere in there.  If you want to make this easy, you can use a simple white or off white or even light brown or green for the lower two thirds of your quilt background, giving you a background to applique mountains and rivers and plants onto.  Remember, this is a design as you go quilt and is meant to be just for fun.
  4. Wait to applique the sun in the upper left corner of your background until my next blog when I will be discussing applique techniques.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Go forth and make a sun and gather the background pieces or even make the simple background.  The next part will deal with appli-piecing the sun into the sky, and making the mountains and other parts of the foreground.  Then there is a part for making plants, and finally we will make some kind of flying creature for our scene, which may take several parts.  I plan on following this with a series of blogs focusing on embellishing and quilting.  I am not calling this a “block of the month” or anything, but I am planning this to stretch across several months…not sure how many.

Sew happy everyone!  Do some thinking about this…join me in the adventure and make your own wall quilt just for fun and to stretch your design techniques a bit.

On MAQF, Antiques, and Tutorials

MAQF

I just came home all inspired by a delightful few days at Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival where I had “Pendragon”.  I put together some of my pictures from the show.  Here is a link to the picture file:  Smugmug/MAQF 17

I stayed a day longer than I usually do for this show and it gave me lots of time to see every quilt, take all four lectures I was interested in and see the Show and Tell that I usually miss.  I also did a lot of shopping.  Well, afterall, my 70th birthday will be this coming Friday on March 3rd, so I gave myself some presents…threads, new rulers (a set of circles and a set of ovals), and one of those spinning cutting mats among a few additional small items.

The loot from the show

Pendragon did not place, but I believe it to be mostly because the theme of the show was modern quilting and that quilt has nothing to say that is even remotely modern quiltish.  I still believe it is a ribbon worthy quilt, so we will see what it does in the future. I decided to see if they would include it anyway because I sort of consider MAQF my main show.  It is within driving distance and I have relatives in the area, so going there is always a treat for me.  I did get some nice comments from the judges:

Your original design effective in telling your story; Embroidery well executed; Piecing well done; Quilting motifs compliments the design; Quilt hangs flat and square; Back of quilt should be free of loose threads and lint” (note:  I sticky rolled it and examined it with my big magnifying lamp when I packed it…lint may have happened on their end.  That backing fabric I used was a little lint grabbing…not using that again).

Pendragon
34 x 45

A New Page Is Turned

Now, however, I am turning a page on my work.  From here I am focusing on the quilt work itself, and on figuring out how to pass on what I have learned even as I maintain my studio artist status (not a lot of travel, a little teaching within driving distance, writing books and creating tutorials), rather than so much focus on the competition work. I will still enter shows, and still plan on making show quilts (they teach me a lot and give me a chance to stretch my work), but it’s an attitude and work flow adjustment in my studio that is on this nice new page in my life.   You can see more about this in one of my past blogposts here.

On Antiques

There are lots of definitions of “antique”.  The one I like the best for this discussion is “an object such as … a work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age.”    Tomorrow (Friday, March 3rd), I will be 70 years old.  I am a work (in progress) maybe even a “work of art” and have considerable age. I think every human being has high value…so there you are.  I could probably be called “an antique” fabric artist.  I feel physically great (have also lost some weight recently and hope to lose more) and I believe I am as mentally alert as ever (always a little daphy).  Many of my ancestors lived well into their hundreds.  I have a wonderful plan for my future and my kids are nearby.  My studio is well stocked, and my fleet of machines is wonderful and in good working order.  I’m excited about the future.  Thank the good Lord and I hope you will continue to join me on my quilting journey.

On Tutorials

One of the things I am going to begin on this blog post is a regular short tutorial (every week or month?).  This week’s tutorial is answering a question I got a lot at the show…how I made the chain mail on my characters in Pendragon using Bernina v7.  I haven’t yet gotten v8, but I suspect this would work there also.

Digitizing Chain Mail for Small Applique (Or using special fills to create what you want)

I wanted to make the characters’ chain mail shirts look right, and decided the best approach was to digitize the chain mail in my Bernina v7 software and embroider it in the hoop.  This took me a while to discover how to do it.  I think I spent two or three days on figuring this out, but I just did a chain mail heart shape and took snap pictures for this tutorial all in about three minutes.  So I thought I’d share this with you in case you wanted to create something special with interesting fills and shapes.  Using Bernina v7 software:

  • Draw a closed shape…you can put the picture in the art canvas side and trace it on the embroidery side
  • Right click on the object and bring up the Object Properties dialogue box.

    Draw shape and in object properties box make these selections (sorry the text box got cut off, but that’s what is said more or less).

 

    These are the selections I made..sizes will depend on your own project size and requires a little experimentation to get it right.

 

  • I had to turn my shirts upside down and move them around to get the wave fill to match where the parts of the wave needed to be to show the expansion and contraction of the chain…like a shirt on a beautifully muscled knight. 😀  I also gave each shirt their own color to help me figure out which belonged where when complete.  I embroidered them all in Superior Fantastico 5169..a silvery variegated gray on black fabric.  I cut them out close to the embroidery and glued them on with Roxanne basting glue and blanket stitched the edges in the same thread to give them a finish.

So there you are.  I can see this method working for a wide variety of appliques and purposes.  The software is so flexible, but finding out how to do something you want to do that is a little different can take time.

Finished chain mail in place

On Upcoming Events:

  • For the month of May and a couple of weeks into June, G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, is hosting an exhibit of my quilts.  I will have one day where I will provide a walking lecture tour of my approximately 15 quilts that will be placed around the store.  I’ll let you know when that is.
  • In June, I will be providing a workshop on machine quilting at G Street.
  • My quilt “Drawing Nigh” will be at AQS in Lancaster, PA, March 20-April 1.  If you attend and see my quilt, let me know.

Sew happy everyone.  Focus on your creative projects to have the most fun, put in your best effort, learn a little bit, and share, and don’t let it stress you out.  I would really appreciate comments.

The Making of Pendragon

I promised you I would write some posts about the making of Pendragon after it was accepted into its debut quilt show.  Pendragon will be shown in the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival on Feb 23-26.  I am so excited because I am planning on attending this show.  When you read this post, I will probably be there, since I am setting this up for posting on the day I leave for the show.  Because of this, I can finally reveal the finished quilt picture.

Pendragon
34 x 45 Text from “The Legend of King Arthur” by Thomas Percy (1729-1811)

I actually made a few small changes since this picture was taken.  There was some stitching that went on a downhill decline under the lower left of the pictorial center on the top of the black text box.  I spent a whole day frogging (ripping out the stitching) of about five inches of decorative stitching and restitching it. It was worth it.  I think it was the only thing that would stand in the way of a judge who likes the design deciding it is a good quilt.  I’m not sure you can see it here on this web-sized picture, but I also added some interesting quilting below the text in the block.  I had to enlarge the text box just a bit to make the borders I made fit just right.

So here is a web-sized picture of the design that Ken gave me for my birthday last year, along with the threads and fabrics.  I blogged about this gift here.  He gave me the throne room background in a separate full-sized file without banners or people or the table, which I had printed on cotton by Spoonflower.

You can see there are some differences.  The banners are all a little different, the text box is longer than the one shown here to make everything fit together, and the border designs, which were a huge challenge, all have slight differences.  Also, there were three more swords pointing on the table from off-picture knights that I eliminated.

So first of all, I sent out the thrown room to be printed, as I said, and then I tried to dye the prepared for dye cotton/silk radiance he gave me to get that nice rich dark green for the Celtic borders. It came out a very pretty color, but not dark enough.  Here’s a picture of the fabric.  It will make a wonderful green for another quilt, so it isn’t a lost effort (I’m thinking a whole cloth pictograph).

My green dyed Radiance

So I talked to some of my quilting friends, particularly Jerry Granata, who has one specialty of working in unusual fabrics, and bought some (much less expensive) poly satin of exactly the right color of dark emerald green and did some testing.  That is what I ended up using.  I also had some green cotton of the right color that I used to work out the design and way to achieve the Celtic border designs on.  Quilters, I will tell you that getting these borders worked out was one of the biggest challenges of my entire fabric arts career.  I wrote a little about it in previous blogs: One and two and three.

After that, I decided it would be best for me to withhold additional photos and construction information until it actually debuts at its first show, which will be the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in just a week.  I’m so excited.  I decided to go to the show, not only because Pendragon got in, but so many of my quilting friends and mentors will be there.  I’m not taking any classes, but I am going to attend several lectures, try to spend some time with my friends, do some quilt gazing and shopping, and stand by my quilt a bit even if it doesn’t place.  And it may not place.  I love it, but it does incorporate digitally printed fabrics, which is not an altogether accepted method yet, and I am all too aware that my quilting is not traditional in any way and needs to grow.  I plan on showing it as much as I can over the next couple of years regardless of the reception by the judges just because it is a meaningful quilt that I want people to see.  When it finally comes home for its retirement, I plan on giving it to Ken if he wants it.  I am thinking it will also be at my exhibit of my quilts at G Street Fabrics in April or May (I’ll give you the dates when I get them).

Anyway, back to the making of the quilt.  I loved the way the people came out mostly.  I particularly like the queen.  Her dress is a small print with gold that I outlined all the little flowers with gold thread quilting.  I used a matching sheer for the sleeves and actually made tiny sleeves for her arms.  All their hair is free motion thread work.  The guys’ tabards and the little banners all have machine embroidered designs.  The little banners are independent banners that I made, then hand stitched on top of the quilt.

I digitized the mens’ chain mail shirts using some of the powerful software in Bernina V7.  It was a fun challenge and took me several days to make it come out with the appropriate differences that fit their bodies.  Then it was embroidered on black and after applique I added some free motion chain work around them to make them look more real and smooth some of the joinings.  The swords were so challenging to figure out that (after much consideration and discussion with Ken and Beth) I ended up printing the digital design of the swords from Ken’s design and appliqueing them on with monopoly.  Getting the hands properly tucked around the handles was a bit of a challenge, but in the end, I was happy with the swords.  I added black crystals on King Arthur’s sword.   The crowns are free motion stitching using metallic threads with the addition of hot fix crystals.

All the quilting of the throne room was done with the idea of bringing out a 3D concept.  I am generally happy with that result.

Then I faced the challenge of piecing it together.  The border was in pieces and had to match up square and with the pictorial center.  I should have had the throne room printed slightly larger, because by the time it was quilted and squared up, it was a bit smaller than the intended design.  I dealt with this by adding a bit of black below the text box (to make up for the lengthwise shrinking), where I placed some quilting designs, and slightly narrowing the top and bottom small Celtic border pieces (to make up for the crosswise shrinking).  But in the end, after a few bits of frogging and restitching, it actually came out very square and flat.  I was  ecstatic.  Getting quilts square and flat, especially my art quilts that have so many different types of techniques, stitching, painting, etc, is a huge challenge every time.  This one worked.  I used my laser devices (a laser square and a laser cross hair lamp) to help get it square.  If the judges measure it, and it doesn’t get shifted in any way in the transport and hanging, they will find it a square quilt.

I used Quilters Dream thin poly batting and Hobbs wool batting.  I ended up using 6 titanium top stitch needles on this quilt…I think the gold paint dulled the points quicker.  Constructed on my Bernina 830LE and quilted on my Bernina Q20.  All Superior threads (variety of weights and colors).

Sew happy everyone!  Will I see you at MAQF?  Do you have any questions?

 

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.

 

 

Christmas, Advent, Blogs, and Magic

I am astonished to see that it has been nearly a month since I published my last blog post.  In general, I try to publish once a week every weekend, but sometimes I get caught in that time vortex where each week is but a day and each day but an hour…you know the ones I mean.  I am just bobbing my head up from the latest whirl as I prepare for Christmas and work to complete some deadlines.

I am waiting on a wish list from my most difficult of all family members to buy a gift for (my oldest son Ken), and if he doesn’t give me one he gets a gift cirtificate.  But other than that I have completed my Christmas shopping.  I have not yet even started decorating for Christmas.  I celebrate Christmas, the birth of my Lord,  from Christmas Eve through 6 January.  I also celebrate Advent as a time of preparation and reflection.  So for me, having the house decorated by about December 20th or so is just about right and in tune with the preparation part of Advent.  Yet, the other night I was driving home from being out and saw my whole neighborhood is bright with beautiful Christmas lights.  So I think for my neighbors we will endeavor to get our outdoor lights up this week.

My youngest son, David, is under a heavy set of deadlines for his writing.  He has been asked to contribute a novelette for a collection of stories that is due by the end of the month, and he has to get it to his editor by the 15th.  So I am putting off decorating until he gets that manuscript to his editor. He is a necessary part of this endeavor.  After all, someone has to go up that ladder to get the decorations down…LOL.

He also has been asked to be a guest author at a writing/fantasy/sci fi conference (Raven Con in Williamsburg, Virginia) in April, and he has the third book in his Law of Swords series close enough to completion that he wants to get that one published in time to have it in hand for the conference.  So snatching a bit of his time here and there is really difficult.  But I’m excited for him.  His writing is downright magical.

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If you haven’t read any of his books, I encourage you to do so even if you don’t normally read fantasy, because they are full of romance, intrigue, and adventure and are so very well written. They would make great Christmas presents too, and talent as deep and wonderful as his is needs supporting.  So please buy a book and see what you think.

I have not forgotten the blog this past month.  I have been struggling to write a post about the magic of combining today’s wonderful drawing and painting software with fabric art and specifically with art quilting.  But I think I’m going to put that one aside because I just can’t get it put together like I want.  But believe me, it’s worth the time and money spent to obtain and learn such technologies as Corel Draw, Corel Painter, Bernina Design software, Electric Quilt, and any photographic editing software.  With it, you can paint in the computer and print on fabric.  You can design in the computer and print a full sized design.  You can design your own fabric and have it printed.  You can draw a whole quilt and have it printed full sized on wonderful fabric and quilt it. You can digitize your own embroidery items and stitch it out on your embroidery machine.

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You can just draw something wonderful and print it out full size and replicate it on your free motion machine (even a treadle machine if that’s how you roll). It’s so exciting and wonderful that it’s almost magical.

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And so what are my deadlines, you wonder.  Ahhhhh….that’s a good question!  Maybe I’ll tell you some of them next time.

Sew happy everyone!  I bet you have some kind of artistic software lurking around your computer somewhere.  It’s time to learn to use it if you haven’t already as part of your quilting and/or sewing adventure.

 

 

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.

 

When Projects Go Awry

One of my wonderful mom’s favorite jingles was a song taken from an old movie that was as old as I am.  It was You gotta stick to it tivity:  You’re gonna do all right, you’re gonna do all right.  She sang that to me when things I was trying to accomplish needed more work or went really awry. I can still hear her from time to time singing to me from heaven.  😀  I did see that movie, So Dear to My Heart sometime in my childhood and remember it a bit.

5" x 5" fabric greeting card or mug rug

A little heart mug rug…just showing it because this story touches my heart strings.

It didn’t seem like it at the time, but over the years I realized her singing that little jingle to me repeatedly was a gift that has served me well across the years, and most recently in my quilting.  While working on the past several quilts I have had things go awry rather badly and I thought it may be the end for both of those quilt projects.

Just this week, I started embroidering an element on my Hoffman Challenge 16 quilt and took extra care to place it perfectly along the cross hairs with my brand new laser cross hair light.  It was stitching wonderfully, until I looked at it and….

Gasp!  I had put the hoop on sideways!  Oh no.  The element was turned a perfect 90 degrees wrong.  I stopped the embroidery machine immediately, but it had already stitched quite a lot.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it before I did.

Well, I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to fix it.  Machine embroidery is very much harder to remove than ordinary machine stitching.

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So I started the process with my stitch remover and tweezers and realized I was simply not making any significant progress and I had put a small hole in the fabric. So I thought I would not be able to repair this quilt.  But I was wrong.

I decided the next morning to research what other people do when this happens and found a couple of videos on you tube of people using a hand held shaver and and another with an electric shaver-like device to remove such embroidery from the bobbin side.  Someone noted in the comments that it was a regular small razor, which is what it appeared to me to be also.  I bought a “Peanut” razor by Wahl, which is a very small palm sized razor and significantly less expensive than the embroidery specific razor.

peanut razor

It came and I successfully removed the embroidery with no further damage to the fabric.  Woohoo! I turned it to the back, braced it on my sewing ham to give it a solid rounded basis and shaved the bobbin side holding the razor kind of upside down as shown in the videos.  I didn’t think it did anything until I turned it over and scratched at the embroidery with my tweezers, and it started coming up!  It took me a couple of hours, but it all came and left no further damage than the small hole I made earlier.

So yesterday I starched and ironed the area and restitched the embroidery off quilt on nylon veiling, which I will applique on.  It will cover the small damage to the fabric with no problem and it looks wonderful.

This event follows on the heels of my completing Drawing Nigh which I just finished after having multiple problems and nearly giving up on it more than once.

Sew this is what I think.  It is all right to abandon a project, but if you have spent hours and money on it, it can pay you to try to fix it.  You may want to step back from it for a while and give it some thought. Do some research on what you can do to fix a problem you may not know how to fix, and keep on trying through one problem after another.  If, in the end, you just can’t fix it to look like you want, you may be able to cut part of it into another project,  or simply throw it away.  But i suggest you don’t do that until you really try to fix it. You may end up with a wonderful end result.

Sew happy everyone and “stick to it tivity: you’re gonna be all right!”

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