Thursday, August 19, 2010

Templates anyone?

Lately it has become almost a hidden secret, something we are reluctant to admit.  Yes, it is ok to use stencils or templates in our free motion machine quilting!

The clamshells, above, are small, maybe 1/4" or 3/8" in size, and yes, I did them freehand, with no marking.  Sometimes a straight "horizon" line to help me stay level can be added, but grainline in fabric or a line of piecing usually is all I need to keep them nice and even, in a classic, traditional style.  Funkier clamshells, "relaxed" clamshells don't need to be level or the same size, so go for it with them, with no marking.

However, if you have difficulty getting them even, and want them to be even, don't forget about a template.  Anita Shackelford has a wonderful mini and larger template for perfect clamshells and for larger fan designs that works great.  She has many photos for you to see the applications for this template, including a Sashiko design based on clamshells for machine quilting. 

Click here to go to the page on her website, to see the examples using this tool.

I like the perfect spiral tool as well, and of course infinite feathers if you need some help getting that feather shape established in your brain.  Mark some, quilt them, do it over and over until you can do it with minimal guide markings and no marks eventually. 

Remember, it looks easy when you see others quilt feathers and such so effortlessly with no marking, but if you need marking and templates, it's perfectly natural and a very good thing to have in your repertoire to get those quilts done beautifully.


Monday, August 16, 2010

This and That, Deux

Sometimes it's the "little things" that make life special, like an old doll quilt from a departed Great Grandma, little animals, and tea dishes to share with the granddaughters.  My sister gets down on the floor and plays "tea party"  with her two granddaughters, my great-nieces, and our old things are new again. 

Some observations on a beautiful dry sunny windy day in Wisconsin:
  • We have hardwood floors in the house, and I no longer need to dust under the recliners in the family room.  Oliver loves to hide and sit under them when we are in them, rolls around, and thoroughly removes any dust.  What a cat.  A Roomba of a cat.
  • The PGA tournament this weekend was near here in Wisconsin, on the shores of majestic Lake Michigan, really an inland sea.  I hope people from around the country got a glimpse of why we like it here.
  • I am sorting through very early quilts I made back in the 80's.  Some are still terrific, the classic designs, pieced well, tried and true.  I'm keeping them.  Some are rather unfortunate, and are being bundled up to give to charity, as someone can love them.  They are being wasted at my house.  Oliver loves to help sort quilts too.  We were both sneezing though.
  • I have too many sewing machines.  And too many boxes they came in.  Oh no..... 
  • On the top shelf of an unused closet an old "word processor/electric typewriter" from before we had computers was found.  What to do with it?  Does anyone still want an electric typewriter? Hmmm. The word processor function let you see 4 lines of type and had memory for that too, so you could somehow go back and correct things in those 4 lines.  The readout was vile neon green.  I remember I thought it was amazing at the time.
  • Getting old means you still save things that might prove useful, but you can't find them even if you do remember you have them.  I have decided if you don't know you have them you might as well NOT have them.  Out it all goes.  The house is beginning to feel lighter.
  • Satellite Delay.  This is a term from several years ago that was used in the news when interviewing people by satellite and we had that time lag when there was dead air.  We now use it in our house to describe not being able to remember something or have it actually register until that lag occurs.  Sometimes it is a moment or two, but recently my satellite delay in remembering the name of that white sauce I made for creamed fresh veggies took two weeks.  Then it popped into my head, Bechamel Sauce.  Yum.   Just scream out "satellite delay......" and then what you remembered. 
  • Quilting?  Ah, not right now. 
Enjoy your summer and the little things.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Oliver!

Happy Birthday to Oliver!  He is one year old today, and weighs a dense and muscular 12#!  His official announcement photo, above, done by photo shop expert Sandi Leichner.  We are so blessed to have him in our lives. 

As our 7th cat, he is the only one whose birthday is known.  We guessed at the others, but it's nice to be able to imagine a litter of little Olivers coming into the world a year ago today.

All the comments and discussion on quilts in shows, quilts in general at this time, that you contributed were terrific.  More thoughts on this in the future, and on design and quilting in general.  We need to work on technique, always, but on design too.

I also quilted a bit with the Jersey needle with some various metallic threads.  Now, with that said, metallics are not my forte.  I rarely use them, just a touch here and there once every ten years, so I never had to find the answer to how to use them.  I think every machine, every situation, every brand takes a bit of fussing to get things to work properly.

The #80 Jersey needle did a good job with some Superior metallic and even better with a flat very shiny metallic with no label so I have no memory of what it is.  But it looked very nice quilted.  I only quilted a few minutes with each, not a good enough workout to see if the needle would not cause problems.

It did, however, work great with the YLI Sparkle thread, a strand of silk and one of metallic in one thread.  I quilted 30 minutes straight and it had no problems.

With all these samples I did use #100 silk in the bobbin.  It was in the machine...:-)

Meanwhile, thanks for the ideas, the good wishes, and the thoughts on quilting.  We are taking today to celebrate Oliver, and relax.  Tomorrow it's back to work.

Keep quilting; your work gets better every day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer's End

"A Visit to Provence" ~ copyright Diane Gaudynski,  miniature whole cloth, 24" square, collection of National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY

Summer is hot and humid  here in Wisconsin, steamy and buggy, a sauna of swampiness.  I sorely look forward to fall. 

I apologize for not posting more often about quilting and giving you some tips and encouragement.  However, my severe mold allergy has flared due to roofers and landscapers and today a deck demolition in our neighborhood, so I haven't even been near my work.  Just trying to get through each day has taken my all. 

Fighting mold when it makes you so ill is very difficult, if not impossible.  Mother Nature is winning this battle I fear.  Recommendations for a city/state that is dry and not moldy are welcomed.  I'm bad at high altitude though.

I will try and catch up on email and blog comments soon. Facebook is still a major mystery for me, so please be patient.  I only signed on there to view someone's quilt photos and now I have my own page, friends and all.  Who knew!

Recently I did escape for the day and met a friend at a national juried and judged quilt show.  I thought it would cheer me, but it did not, even though it was good to be out, and see friends. 

I loved some of the quilts, many of them ones with no awards and ribbons, some I had seen in other prestigious shows with awards, but not here. 

It seemed to me that many of these machine quilted entries and winners looked mechanical, lacked integration of design and quilting, had little presence or heart. 

I don't think "more" is always better, that crystals can always make the design better or even be the design, that using every motif under the sun is better than using designs that make sense to the quilt itself.  Editing in the overall design in many of the quilts was lacking. 

Plus there was so much derivative work rather than new and creative.  

Ann Fahl said it best in her blog,   in her post "Questions and Thoughts on a Recent Quilt Show."  These same thoughts have been in my mind for the past several years as well.    

Once home, I looked at my quilt on the living room wall, "Rabbit in Green."  I have only one of my quilts hanging, and this is my favorite right now.  I felt that deep thud inside as I looked at it, kept looking at all of it, never tired of looking at it. 

I didn't notice particular stitches or techniques, but the "whole" of it.  The visual beauty, not the technical bits and pieces.  Technique for me should be the invisible marionette strings that hold up the piece.  You look at the puppet, not the strings.  And if there is no puppet, only the strings?  Disappointment.

An admirer of Rabbit in Green from outside the quilt world offered to buy when it was in an exhibit last fall. After much thought I declined the sale, because I would rather have this quilt than a check for it.  When you feel that way you know you are on the right track, no matter what the trend in machine quilting might be.

I included my quilt A Visit to Provence, above, because it is one of my best works, and shows the direction my work will continue to take, firmly rooted in heritage and tradition, using it as my springboard.  I will add my own designs and machine skills to express that heritage as fully, as beautifully, as satisfyingly as I can.

Meanwhile, my computer is gathering dust due to no power cord and a depleted battery for the past two weeks.  I noted when it had no power that the cord was covered with cat teeth marks, so that may have contributed to its dying, but a new cord is on the way, and I have my teeny travel netbook for email and this blog today. 

However, it is August and the world is on vacation, so being out of the loop is ok.  I hope you are enjoying this time of year, quilting something that makes you happy and fulfilled, and loving summer's beauty.