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.

My Own Quilting Retreat

On Monday my new Q20 Fritz was setup in the part of my studio that also houses my office with my computer, and recently iquilt has been having sales on their video classes and I purchased several.  Starting on Tuesday I have been having my own private quilting retreat (and I’m not finished). Actually, I kind of fell into this little quilting retreat by coincidence of the two things happening in close proximity to each other.

Here is Fritz:

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

 

The days have flown by as I watched the classes, put together practice quilt sandwiches, and practiced on my new machine.  I have spent four or five hours a day practicing quilting on Fritz, and sometimes, I just put the class videos on and let them play through, and sometimes I stopped and went carefully through the classes.  I have really enjoyed myself.

The classes are all great, by the way, and I am learning a lot.  Sew what classes am I taking?

I also have run thr0ugh a couple of The Quilt Show shows while I was practicing quilting and testing various threads and settings on Fritz.   It’s kind of been like I was taking a summer school in quilting.  I am planning a similar week next week.

I need much more practice on Fritz to produce show quality quilting, but I feel encouraged to see some progress.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….  I do need to get to quality quilting fairly soon because I have a lot of ongoing quilting plans and book samples to do, and the quilting on these needs to be beautiful and well done. Here are a couple of photos from my first practice:

 

Day 1...it's a beginning. The black thread is the very first, the blue varigated is next, and the stitching in the lower right includes both metallic and 12 wt thread.

Day 1…it’s a beginning

 

Day 1 specialty threads. I had to do some adjustments to the tensions to make these work. The metallic in the upper left worked well with just a little loosening of the upper tension. The 12 wt thread required loosening the bobbin and tightening the upper thread just slightly for both.

Day 1 specialty threads. I had to do some adjustments to the tensions to make these work. The metallic in the upper left worked well with just a little loosening of the upper tension. The 12 wt thread required loosening the bobbin and tightening the upper thread just slightly for both.

 

Day 2...some improvement in this pattern

Day 2…some improvement in this pattern.  See the first try in the upper left of Day 1 first picture.

 

Practice 2 a

Day 2, practicing ruler work with Lisa Calle’s pro pebble rulers

 

Practice 2 b

Day 2…very fast free form spiral…clearly needs a lot of work!!!

Sew happy everyone!  I know not many of you can take a lot of time for your own retreat, but I highly recommend it if you can manage it.  Nevertheless, I hope you can take some time to learn and practice, whichever machines, needles, and techniques you use.  This brings many rewards. I’m off to do some more practice!

 

On Organic Quilting for Landscapes

I always need to work at coming up with how to quilt my landscape and pictorial wall art quilts, as I suspect most quilters do for their quilts.  I went through the recent past couple of years thinking I needed to learn a  more formal quilting style and to avoid the natural flow of organic quilting patterns that came to my mind when looking at a landscape or pictorial quilt.  This probably stemmed from my observations of the details of winning quilts at major quilt shows where the quilter had often used a very formal style of quilting even for pictorial or landscape quilts.  This is a fine way to approach it and probably entered in to the judges’ decisions to award the quilt a ribbon.  But for my quilts, I truly prefer a more organic approach, though I do admit there are places where formal quilt patterns would be in order.

As of this writing, I am currently in the process of quilting my Hoffman Challenge quilt for 2016.  This quilt is heavily appliqued to form a whimsical pictorial quilt of a fantasy forest path with trees, birds, animals, and butterflies.  Since it is so heavily appliqued, it has only small spaces in which to develop any formal types of quilting patterns.  I struggled for some time trying to come up with a good sky pattern for a quilt where the sky is supposed to be sunny and calm…not a lot of wind and no approaching storms.  Believe it or not I found this harder to decide on than I did the “sculptured stormy sky” quilting  that I came up with for Drawing Nigh.

"sculpted sky" quilting pattern for Drawing Nigh

“sculpted sky” quilting sample for Drawing Nigh

In the end, I decided on a simple meander using a 100 weight silk.  It makes the sky recede into the background without implying wind or clouds, and brings the appliques to the foreground, exactly like I wanted.  It’s not perfect (my quilting almost never is), but it seems reasonably good also.

quilting-1-web

This quilt is still in process…for instance, the butterflies don’t have their antenna and beadwork yet. The leaves on the big tree aren’t quilted yet. But this pic shows how the simple meander pushes the sky back where it belongs and brings forth the appliques. I quilted the big tree in a simple bark-like line.

For past quilts, like Noel, I have also struggled to find just the right pattern, or in truth, fill, that maintains the organic feel of the area and still provides enough added interest.  (This quilt won a Honorable Mention in HMQS 2013).

Noel quilting

Mossy side of the cave where the Nativity Scene is pictured within.

For me, it helps my end results to keep it simple, and for these types of quilts the shapes need to be organic and easy to use around complex shapes.  I think every quilter needs to develop their own style that suits them.  I am pretty sure it does not mean that you have less skill if you use organic shapes, although I think some judges think that, but it is an artistic design choice. Some of these organic styles actually require considerably more skill than you may think…for instance large areas of simple meander should be as evenly and appropriately sized for the project as possible, which is not always easy to do.  You also need to figure out if the areas are so large they need breaking up with something for interest sake (wind creatures or clouds, for instance).  I hope that judging is moving toward an understanding of this.  Nevertheless, I think that I will continue along this path, though I do think I should do a formal quilt at some point.  I have something in mind.

Note:  My Bernina sitdown longarm is arriving next week, perhaps Monday, followed by a day of set up and training by my dear Bernina dealer and friend Mei Ling and my magician tech Lew.  I hope very much that this addition to my machine family will not only help my other machines last longer, but provide me with a higher level of quilting.  It seems possible it might also speed up my quilting, since the stitching speed is twice that of my Bernina 830, but that is not a given.  After an enormous reorganization effort of the whole upper flour of my home, I have a wonderful space for the new machine, a nice space for my smaller Koala cabinet where i use my purely domestic machines, and maintained my big cabinet space for my 830 that I also use for cutting clothes and other projects.  This reorg has already brought many positive changes to my studio that I probably should have done earlier.  I’ll post pictures when everything is in place.

Sew happy everyone!  Try some organic free motion quilting for your next landscape scene.

 

“Waiting…” 2: Finally Moving Along

Have you ever had a quilt that struggled with you to the point you nearly abandoned it?  Well, that was the second in my “Waiting…” series, but I picked it up and did some substantial fixing, and now I am at the point of coming close to finishing the top and I love it at this point.

First of all, I pieced a storm at sea section to become part of the ocean.  The piecing was challenging, but enjoyable and I liked the way it came out. Here are the first two blocks of that section.first two blocks

When I put it together with the fabric piece had for the rest of the ocean, and added the sky, the whole background piece seemed disjointed and the colors simply didn’t play well. So I took the ocean off the sky and overdyed the ocean (both pieces joined together) with a more sea-like color and they blended beautifully together.  The only negative result is that, even though I hand dyed it, the pieced storm-at-sea blocks’ seams tended to fray together, so I no longer had the nice flat open pressed seams I started with.  But really, by the time I spent several hours re-flattening and spray starching the sea, it looks wonderful.

But the sky…oh the sky.  It was just too dull and gray and lifeless.  I wanted a sky with an obviously approaching storm at sunset, just as the clipper ship can be seen on the horizon.  This is to add the drama to the story…can the ship make it into port safely, and will the family be reunited and get into shelter before the storm hits?

I had tried painting that sky three times already, and I didn’t like any of them.  So I took the one I liked the best and added clouds, lightening, sunset colors, and yes, I think it now has the drama (and color) I was hoping to add.  So I put the sky and the ocean back together.

Here is a quick pic of the ocean after I dyed it and got it back together with the sky.

Here is a quick pic of the ocean after I dyed it and got it back together with the sky.

Then I added the cliffs to the left of the picture and it began to look right.  I just put in a lighthouse on the top of the farthest away visible cliff, added the rocky steps and the stone platform in the nearest  stony area for the woman and her daughter to stand on and surrounded it with stones as it would be.  It has made all the difference.  I now finally like the quilt top.

But I was not happy with the original clipper ship I had chosen to use.  I am using a Dover high-definition painted ship and I have the collection.  They are much more beautiful than I could have made from scratch, and I don’t mind using commercially printed fabrics, so why should I mind using a fabric I print myself from a collection of great nautical paintings.  Using this still requires considerable advanced techniques in applique, thread work, and quilting.

tall ship

The ship I decided not to use.

The ship I'm using.

The ship I’m using.

So I hunted through the collection and found another one, which I printed out about five different sizes, and finally got it about right.  I like this one. It has life, the sails are billowing and are a better color.  I’m slightly leaning it on the quilt to add to the look of speed.  I printed it out both on the EQ regular cotton fabric and the EQ lawn.  I am appliqueing the whole ship down from the cotton fabric, and have added wool batting to the back of the front sails and will applique those in place to give it a bit of 3D billowing sales.  I am also adding a layer of wool batting behind the ship and trapuntoing it all in place.  Then I will stitch the rigging.   That will probably take me a couple of days to applique and another stretch of time to do the quilting and stitch the rigging.  Here is my machine stitching around the stones and stone steps up to the platform where the woman and her daughter will stand.

top under construction

Then there will be the stirring up of the sea with some Angelina fibers and some thread work.  That will be fun.

Sew happy everyone!  Wishing you all a wonderful National Quilting weekend, and a happy Palm Sunday on the morrow.

A Watch Project and MAQF

The cheap white plastic watch ready to ink.

The cheap white plastic watch ready to ink.

I leave tomorrow for the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, VA and a visit with my family members there.  I’m very excited.  It looks like the weather is going to cooperate and the trip is all happily arranged.  So in the way of things, the battery died in my beautiful Bolova watch and I really didn’t have time to take it to a jewelry and get it changed (I can’t do that one myself) before I went.  So I ordered this cheap white plastic watch with one-day delivery for about the same a battery would cost.  And yes, I will still get the Bolova fixed, but I also wanted a watch to wear when I am working with paints and dyes, etc.

When it came, and I put it on, it seemed to scream…cheap white plastic watch here!  So my son David suggested I paint it if I could.  What a great idea.  I tried out several markers on the back of the strap and found only one will stay without wiping off..Sharpies.  I have a nice collection of sharpies, and so I turned it into this:

After...It was hard to keep any kind of straightness, so I ended up doing wandering colors.

After…It was hard to keep any kind of straightness, so I ended up doing wandering colors.

It is seemingly dry now.  I’m going to let it continue to dry for another hour or so before putting it on.  It may wear off as I wear it, but just passing a cloth over it, there is no change of color or stain on the cloth.  After that dried I painted over it with clear finger nail polish.  We’ll see how this wears.  The fun thing is the numbers on the watch face are all different colors kind of like a color wheel, so it fits the project.

Sew I’m off to my neice’s first thing in the morning, and on to MAQF on Friday and Saturday, home Sunday.  How fun is that?!

Sew happy everyone!