Sunday, April 29, 2012

Playing at Your Machine

Even though it is spring and everyone is busy with a zillion spring things, take some time to play at your sewing machine with your quilting.  It's something you put off, think of it as the dreaded PRACTICE, but for me it is always a little escape into the world of relaxing quilting. 

It's not a project, you won't ruin anything, and you can work at one thing at a time and not stress over everything looking perfect.  Concentrate on a design, or getting stitches/tension looking their best.  Experiment with different colors or threads or styles.  Hone your skill when you decide on what looks best.  Repeat the design many times, spend some hours at one thing.

One of the things I notice about students is their impatience, and wanting to jump from one thing to the next too quickly.  Settle in, say to yourself that you will really get to know a design.  Change the scale, color of thread, use it as focal point, try it smaller as a fill. 

I used a leftover class demo sample to sit and play awhile back, good quality washed muslin, wool batt, silk thread.  I use the things I will quilt with in a real quilt for this practice time, this experimenting, this "what if...." session.

Above I used a class sample I had quilted already of headbands done in a variegated #50 Aurifil cotton thread, and quilted some small feathers around them.  They then became a focal point design, and I could have added a few echo lines and then some smaller backgrounds and I would have had something new and interesting to add to a setting square or place in a quilt that needed "something."

Above, some spirals that went right into feathers on the outside.  I tried to overlap them but didn't like the thread build-up that made it look messy, so if ever used, they would be isolated probably.  I did some  dark thread warm-up and then played a bit with some ink on that area. 

Here is an experiment with some larger stipple shape I call in my mind "linear stippling" because it is long echoing shapes of the stipple.  In the top left it started as triangles that I used to teach in Ripple Stipple, but the effect can be more loose and open, relaxed, but still very ripply.  It is a usable variation on something I already know how to do well, a nice design I can save and use at some point.

Some tips for playing at your machine:
  •  Give yourself adequate time for a session.  If it's only 10 minutes, oil the machine instead.
  • Start with something you know and warm up until you feel loose and relaxed.  Then try to morph that design just a bit, or add something to it.
  • Take notes right on the sample because you won't remember.  Color of thread, tension, needle, even degree of difficulty for you.
  • Save the samples in a special place, box, drawer, shelf, so that you can find them later.  When you are working on a quilt, get this out ahead of time and start thinking if any of your ideas will work. 
  • To refresh a skill done in the sample, rather than starting on a clean sample, quilt some more on the previous sample near the design itself.  Your brain will take in the previous quilting, and key off it, providing the visual you need to recreate it after some time has passed.
  • Your machine will like the time you spend with it.  Now that I know I must USE my machines and not just store the ones I don't use frequently (yes I do have several, have kept them all over the years), this is a great way to keep them up and running well.
  • When you return from quilt inspiration such as a guild meeting, a class, a quilt show, try some of the things you were excited about using right away or you'll forget about them.  Create a lasting sample, and capitalize on the experience and sights you've just had.
I know when I got this sample out I had forgotten about my Giant Fronds, and saw them, immediately wanted to use them in a real quilt.  And then the new bubble wrap design.....and more.

Hope this has inspired some of you to take a Sunday afternoon and spend it at your machine!

Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day....

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Paducah Winners

I had a wonderful brief fast frenzied time in Paducah, was sorry I couldn't be there longer, but there is always next time.  I saw many familiar faces and enjoyed Sneak Peak of the show, and toured the museum.  The quilts were beautiful.

To see photos of the winning quilts, click here.  There are videos of the quilts and interviews with winners, always great to watch.

The postcard above by Ruth Ohol was sent to me several years ago after I whined in class that my trip took way too long with all the road construction.  Well, there was still quite a bit, not as bad, but it added another hour to my 500 mile drive.  I am still somewhat the shape of the car seat and have swollen feet and an aching body from all the hours driving. 

Here I am posing with a fabulous flamingo, after lunch with Ann Fahl.  We each did the tourist thing and posed with the local color. 

It was at Flamingo Row restaurant in Paducah, and we had a delightful time, the motifs and colors just what we needed.  The food was yummy too.  The area at the front of the building had sand as fill and beach grass, flamingoes, painted signage, etc., so whimsical and fun, and in Paducah! 

On to the show.  The big winners that were machine quilted were all about the thread - contrast thread that "painted" the picture, lots of metallics too.  Susan Stewart's Bernina Award quilt featured a design made with digitized machine embroidery with lush feathers and minute background quilting on ivory Radiance fabric that she specially pieced so that the grainline would not show light/dark but was all uniform.  It was delicate, almost bridal in effect.

Judy Woodworth's Best Longarm quilt was a whole cloth design on black sateen fabric with colored threads, striking.  Do listen to her interview, it is delightful.

Sue McCarty's BOS was also a celebration of thread used to create the design in her quilt titled "Harmony Within."  There is also an interview with her, and one with Cheryl See who won the Hand Workmanship Award.  Getting the information from these quilters is great, and is  one of the perks of going.  Talking to them and seeing these quilts up close in person is the very best way to appreciate all the quilts. 

Congrats to Pat Holly for her Best Wall Quilt Award for "Imagining India," terrific.  Beautiful use of silk fabrics and color, fantastic machine work too.  I even got to talk to her!

Ellen Heck's first place quilt, "Baltimore in the Provence" was simply splendid, so glad I was able to see that one in person.  Quietly perfect.

The excitement, the quilts, the lovely weather, seeing friends made it very special for me.  Oliver missed me, and is still purring.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Greetings from chilly Wisconsin, USA!  We had our early taste of summer in March but now it is March in April, a bit confusing.  Because it's cold and windy and I cannot find anything anymore ever at all in my sewing room, Oliver and I have been spring cleaning for a few days with about a week left to get to the floor in every corner, in every nook.  He claimed his spot on some old jeans destined for donation while he worried over what was happening.  Soon he realized this was big fun indeed.

It has been a journey through layers of "stuff" collected and saved or merely squished into spaces over the past 18 years.  My quilting life and career unfolded before me as we dug and sorted, saved and tossed, organized and even had a few tears shed. 

Old letters, old photos were wonderful to find, some of my childhood ones thought to be lost were found.  Photos from quilt events, stellar moments all brought back as each one was unearthed.  Cards and notes from students over the years are treasures to be kept.

I found some old wood robin eggs and an antique bowl, so put them out for Easter and let Oliver roll them around on the hardwood floors.  They make a satisfactory rumbling noise, for a little while at least, and then new things are there for him to discover.

Samples of quilting, notebooks of ideas and sketches, blank notebooks, old books and magazines, and so much that I had that I have no idea why I didn't throw out right away.  There was that light for my rotary cutter and probably 20 or more mechanical pencils.  I guess items from teacher gift bags were hard to throw away as these were "perfectly good things" and who knows, might be needed some day.  Ha. 

I hope to finish up this week, and then take a vacation to the quilt show at Paducah next week and relax and enjoy the quilts, the town, seeing old friends. 

Thanks to everyone for the fabulous comments on my "Blossom's Journey" quilt to be auctioned at the live auction Thursday p.m. in the food tent by the Expo Center at Paducah to benefit the National Quilt Museum.  It has arrived at the museum, ready for the show and auction.  Please stop by and see it beforehand at the Expo Center. 

Below, some of the quilt challenge fabrics, all by Moda except for the gold/green solid and that's a Caryl Byer Fallert gradations from Benartex that I added to the mix.  The soft plaid is very thin, almost handkerchief weight, and next to it the stripe is a coarse home dec cotton, so it was just a tad challenging to have it all work out in the piecing.  But the contrast makes it interesting and visually a delight.  My piecing was simple and easy but some of the other quilters used these fabrics in complex designs, a true challenge.

See you soon, and meanwhile, keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day....