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.

 

 

Pondering the Next Projects

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

At this point in my life, I am really amazed to find myself blessed with my two-and-a-partial room studio set up with all my machines in great working order; the fabric, the thread, the paints, the inks, the sequins, crystals, and beads; and the collection of wonderful and interesting sewing tools and notions from decades of sewing.  I even have hoops, needles, and thimbles for hand quilting.  These things have been collected over half a century and include some of inherited items from my mother and mother-in-law.

Currently, I am making the hardest quilt I have ever undertaken…the one my son Ken designed for me and gave me the supplies to make it (see my blog about this here).  I will not be showing that one here until after it is complete, and probably after it has debuted in a show. I am hoping to finish this quilt by the end of November.  As I work through this quilt I am pondering what directions I should take now that I have what is needed to make most anything I can think of.

I do have a 2017 list of quilts concepts (not in any kind of working order):

Ancient Manuscripts:  Ken’s (underway) Designed by Ken Tatum, and gifted design, threads, and fabrics for this magnificent design.
Marvin Memory quilt:  Like a Tree Psalm 1 (Tree by river with words) with fabulous landscape work, the Psalm somehow incorporated in the quilting
Deep Space 4 TBD
Dark Forest in 3D This is kind of a three dimensional
Waiting…3 At the airport
Volcanic Scene with Dragon and Phoenix Mostly in reds, oranges, browns, and golds
Heirloom Quilt in memory of Mom Using Mom’s unfinished needlework and sepia pictures with beads, crystals. lace, decorative stitching…crazy quilt blocks alternating with sepia pics.  This may not be a show quilt…I’ll decide during or after making it.
Deep Space 5 TBD
Ancient Manuscripts 4 TBD
Wool applique and embellishment TBD
Whole Cloth Unusual whole cloth tbd…I have several ideas.
Jacob’s Ladder Jacob’s Ladder pictorial using Jacob’s Ladder traditional blocks for the ladder itself…kind of goes along with Waiting… and Drawing Nigh.
In Full Bloom Flower Applique/Embroidery laden quilt, from Beth’s photographs/Joint with Beth
Swarkovski crystal music/Houston special Jazz 1920s, city with musical notes coming from lit windows with silhouettes, and rising and exploding into fireworks..try to make it almost pulsing with the music beat.

Sew I’m thinking about all of this while making Ken’s quilt.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  I am also considering what to do with these quilts considering everything that is going on in the quilting world.  While they will all be made at show quilt level, I am not sure they will all end up at shows.

Additionally, I am also slowly working on several books and planning to provide some videos and tutorials here.

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on now or planning?

Finishing Things So I Can Start New Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts about Machines

One thing for certain, my kind of fabric work requires a good quality sewing machine, and I need to be able to both embroider and free motion quilt on it a great deal (to a professional level).  Working as I do, I put a lot of stress on my main machine.

On Thursday my wonderful Bernina 830 LE, whose name is Gibbs (after the Gibbs in Wilcox and Gibbs who were historically important in the development of sewing machinery) went berserk in the middle of a simple embroidery stitch-out.  First it started sewing really really fast, which I managed to stop.  Then it started back sewing ok for about 10 stitches, and suddenly there was a “clunk” and the needle stopped going up and down, but the bobbin was spinning at a steady pace.  I tried to stop the embroidery, but the bobbin still spun.  I turned the machine off and on again, and, after a few seconds, the bobbin spun.  I had noticed one time before that it had stitched very fast for no apparent reason, but that was months ago and it stopped after one incident, and I cleaned and oiled it and it went back to sewing ok. I was in shock and actually cried a bit.

Machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag

Gibbs at work machine appliqueing with very narrow zig zag. Note the Sashiko that I stitched out on Gibbs using the embroidery module.

Sew I don’t know whether it is prohibitively expensive to repair it (in other words, it is “dead”), or whether it is repairable.  I have put about 9 million stitches on it over the course of the past four and a half years, and have used it on average probably more than 25 to 35 hours a week, with some weeks being about 50 or 60 hours. I’m taking it in to the shop on Monday.  I am blessed with a very good Bernina dealership and a first rate tech (Lew) at G Street Fabrics.  It is about an hour from here over heavy traffic, so I only go when I have to.

This comes at a really bad time…not that these things ever are good times…but I had just begun working on building my son Ken’s special quilt design project.  This is something that requires some bits of machine embroidery.  I wanted to complete this very challenging project by mid August so I could enter it into the Pennsylvania National Quilt Festival.

I took Gibbs in for his spa treatment and to fix a minor problem in March, and Lew told me then that I really used that machine hard and should buy a longarm to “share the burden” of all that stitching.  I knew then that I could not even get a longarm in the house even if I could afford one.  But I also started thinking about a sit down longarm.

Yesterday, my oldest son came along with my daughter in law to pick up Kevin, my grandson.  While he was here we all talked about the possibilities.  They know that I have been putting extra effort this year into moving my quilting up a level competitively, and am also working on a couple of books…one on applique for fabric art and one on surface design.  And I have really been making a lot of good progress on all of this. Also, I have limited funds and can’t really afford to buy a new 8 series Bernina or similar machine every four years.  Besides, it interrupts the flow of work when it is out of service.

Sew something needs to be done if I am to continue on this path, which I hope will eventually start making me a bit more money..in fact, it already has, but not enough to pay for a new machine.  It’s a wonderful career for me as I move into my senior years.  I am not the type to not have a career even if I were very wealthy.  It’s the joy of creativity, and I must continue in some fashion.

Yesterday I packed up Gibbs with everything he came with to take it out on Monday, and realized my studio really needs a good cleaning.  So I started that.  I am setting up my Bernina B350 (Edith Claire Head…ECLAIR) and my Bernina 1230 (Betsy Ross…BETSY) and getting them all cleaned and oiled to help me through this crisis.

I know there are a lot of fabric artists out there who do not have a big advanced machine, and they make beautiful fabric art and quilts.  My problem is that I am something of a techie and I have developed paths that take advantage of what these advanced machines can do.  I know I could go back to not having an embroidery machine or a big harp space, but I don’t think that is the right path for me.  So it is a crisis.

I am considering what to do.  I can’t decide, of course, until I know whether or not Gibbs can be repaired, or if I have to replace it.  But even if it can, I need to figure out what to do about the possibility of a sit down longarm to add to my store of machines.  It would be a wonderful addition, and would allow me to use the main machine mostly for quilt top construction.  I do like to use decorative stitching sometimes in my quilting, but it is a small percentage of my quilting and I could still use it for that.  Mostly I do free motion with my Bernina Stitch Regulator. Besides, I think I could do ever better fmq on such a machine.

Sew happy everyone!  I’ll let you know how this goes.  Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!