Thursday, July 30, 2009
First Day in Paducah
Tomorrow we have lunch at Caryl Bryer Fallert's studio and a studio tour, just a short hop from the museum, plus we'll take a brief tour of some of the quilts in the collection here, and of course quilt, quilt, quilt, and laugh too. What a talented fun group!
I'll be here next week for a second class called "The Adventure Continues" which is more independent study with brainstorming sessions for the whole group, and a few new techniques from me. I have to pace myself to do two intense sessions, back-to-back.
Photos perhaps later as I meant to take pictures today but was too busy with students, machines, and all the rest that a class involves. Stay tuned - I will try and get some visuals here soon. Meanwhile....keep quilting, your work DOES get better every day!
And my little silk quilt arrived safely in New York,
Monday, July 27, 2009
A Door Opens
Friday, July 24, 2009
While ironing, I needed more than just heat and steam from my trusty Rowenta on recalcitrant linen, so found my plastic spray bottle of water as I had no starch mixed up. A bit of extra dampness would help the process.
I smiled as I remembered learning to iron as a child with this huge heavy all-metal iron that my mother turned off when she was done with the real ironing and then let me use, making use of the leftover heat in it. I remember it was hard to lift, but once it was down, moving it around was OK. But oh it was heavy.
Then I stood at the wooden ironing board that she lowered a notch or two for me. My special job was pressing my father’s handkerchiefs, mostly plaid shirting style, some white and dressy. I loved the weight of the iron and how it moved over the cloth and pressed out all the wrinkles from drying on the clothesline. We had no dryer then, and I helped hang out clothes, take them down, hurry and take them down if an unexpected rainstorm blew in. I could press until the heat ran out, but it lasted a long time, enough for me to complete a lovely stack of pressed handkerchiefs.
My mother kept a green glass bottle on the ironing board with a sprinkler top with cork bottom that inserted into it, and we “sprinkled” the laundry before pressing. My plastic spray bottle with the ultra-fine mist I use now reminded me of this bottle and how I used to love to iron when I was oh, 7 or 8 years old.
I don’t have much now to press except quilting-related fabrics, but every now and then something needs the touch of my iron, and it all comes back, all these years later. The smell of hot cotton, the feel of the iron in my hand as I watch all the creases disappear, and crisp smooth garments emerge, all are so familiar.
I wonder if the day will come when we no longer have to iron anything at all? I would miss it.
Have a great weekend and keep quilting,
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
If a mistake in marking is made, I dip a Q-tip in water and run it over the lines and they disappear enough for me to re-mark in about 15 minutes or so. However, when the quilt is completed I do immerse it in cool water and swish it about, spin it out if it is in my washer, or let drip if it is a small piece, then air dry flat. I want to make sure all traces of the marker are gone from my quilt.
However you wash and dry the quilt, it is important with this marker to thoroughly rinse it out before adding soap to the wash, or before drying the quilt or applying any heat to it. I’ve never had marks reappear later or set permanently and I’ve been using these blue markers for over 20 years.
For really dark fabrics I use the Clover white marking pen. It goes on as an ink, but you need to use a very light touch, almost letting the fabric draw the ink out of the pen. Pressure ruins the pen’s tip, as it does with the blue marker, and makes the line look worse, not better.
Wait a full minute and the white line will develop. Don’t go over the line many times because you can’t see it; do one line, wait a minute, then see how it looks. If you use a light touch, have two of these pens so you can alternate between them, they last a very long time.
The line is crisp and white, not chalky or powdery, and lasts through all the quilting, rolling, packaging, and scrunching we do to a quilt top to get it in a home sewing machine. It washes out with some scrubbing, but I prefer to run the tip of my iron over the lines to erase them. See package instructions for the ways to remove this or any marker, and yes, test on your fabric first to make sure it works properly before marking the quilt itself. It might work great on yellow cotton, but not on red sateen.
Any remaining invisible residue comes out when I do wash my quilt when it is completed.
I also am liking the Bohin white marker that is like a mechanical pencil. There are other brands out there, and there is an eraser in the pen itself for removing the lines. I like this for “mark-as-you-go” designs that I mark and then quilt right away, with little moving or re-bundling of the quilt itself. Then I erase the remaining line before moving on to another design. They do smudge a bit with handling the quilt, so watch for that. But you can get a very precise, and easy-to-see line with these. Nice!
Always mark a test area and then place it in the machine to see how it appears there, not in room light, but in sewing machine light.
Chalk pencils, lead pencils, chalk wheels, water soluble white markers, Pounce pads, purple disappearing markers—these are all options for us, but I don’t use them often myself. You can try all of them and then decide what works for you in various quilting situations.
I don’t worry about marker ink on my fabric nearly as much as I would about chemicals I cannot use because of allergies to them, items like spray adhesives, or even fusibles, art supplies, glues, and so on.
TEST ahead of time with all markers. And with any marker – make sure it comes out, you can see it, it isn’t a struggle to use.
One thing I’ve learned from entering quilts in shows or exhibits is to take the quilt into an area with fluorescent lighting to see if there are any marks remaining. The Ott light will also show up marks that you cannot see in daylight or normal room lighting.
Another tip is to quilt right next to the line, not on the line itself, and it is easier to remove it when you are finished.
If you haunt your local quilt shops the owners probably have all kinds of favorite markers to show you, explain and sell to you. These intrepid people go to Quilt Market and see everything out there for quilters, and buy what they think will work for their customers. Ask! See what’s new at your quilt shops. But make up your own mind about what product works best for YOU.
Don’t fear markers. They are amazing new tools for quilting and help us create the perfect quilting design.
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Marking quilting designs
I love to do freehand work, but I do also like to control where designs will end up on my quilt top and how they will look. Often as a counterpoint to freehand designs I definitely like to mark some repetitive, symmetrical design and quilt on the lines rather than “winging it” when the quilt is under the needle.
When I first began quilting I marked everything, absolutely everything. I was way too afraid to try to quilt with no lines. Now I love to do that, and if I draw my own designs many times change them as I quilt them, when I see they would be smoother, better, easier if I make a quick modification. But, those lines are still guiding me, giving me the basis of the design.
You can choose from purchased standard stencils, newer designer stencils, basic traced quilting designs from books or magazines that you must do with a light box, or tracing around moveable motifs.
I really like to draw out a design on freezer paper, cut it out, and place it on the quilt and trace around it. The motif can be pressed with an iron for easier tracing, but be careful not to press any previous blue washout markings when you do this.
For me, with years of experience, I only trace major elements—the outside border, crucial interior lines—and do much of the interior work freehand. Designs will look alike at first glance, but will have variety of detail because of the freehand work.
You can also choose to change out some of the interiors for more interest. Fill one flower center with clamshells, and others with tiny leaves, rocks, or bananas. It also keeps work interesting for you.
Sandra Leichner’s blog shows you how she does freezer paper stencils for her original designs: http://sandraleichner.com/wordpress The entry is titled Freezer Paper “Stencils.”
Try marking a few designs. It’s easier than you think, can be your original work or something standard, and it is SO nice to quilt when the lines are there for you to follow.
Keep quilting, your work gets better every day.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
What lies beneath...
However, it is very real, just as he saw it. I told him it would be a beautiful quilt, and immediately I thought -- what fabrics, how to quilt it, maybe I should now learn some appliqué. What size, what batt, on and on.
All it takes is a brief look at something out of your ordinary day to get the wheels turning. Maybe you can find something “below the surface” and get the creative sparks sparking!
Keep quilting and enjoy your own summer pastimes even if you don’t do anything more than observe, do some virtual quilting, and store up some ideas for the winter by taking in summer’s beauty.
Monday, July 13, 2009
One of the things I suggest over and over to students is to make more than small projects. Start at a 40” quilt. There is a lot of territory to cover in something this size, so you will have some time to build your quality and confidence.
A bigger project, like, oh, a bed quilt, is even better!
The sample of quilting, above, is from the border of my quilt “Shadows of Umbria” and shows how Diane-shiko can be used as a border design. Believe me, after quilting this border on an 85” square quilt I could just about do this design with my eyes closed, and my stitches were nice and even.
It’s harder for me to demo a small sample of a design in class, just sit and begin it and quilt for students, as I am doing it without any warm-up. I have to depend on the fact I’ve done it a lot so that my brain will remember how it all goes and be able to replicate the design.
Quilting on a large quilt gives me the opportunity to really burn in that mind/muscle connection. As I work on one type of quilting until all of it is completed, I can see it smooth out and get better each day. Then I switch to another type of design.
Jumping between designs does not let you build your skill level as successfully.
I take frequent breaks, don’t work when I am tired or in an impatient mood. Quilting is the part of a quilt that lets you escape, sit and hear the comforting rhythmic sound of the machine, in your space with your things around you, in a little cocoon of contentment. At least that is what I am hoping for!
The stitches will even out. They always do. Show them who’s boss.
Keep quilting, your work gets better every day,
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We all have different standards in our work, so what is “in control” for one seems totally ridiculous for someone else. Some quilters quilt slowly at one consistent speed on the machine, pacing hand movements to keep stitches consistent and even, working at a smaller scale. Others do the “pedal to the metal” method and may have mild anxiety attacks keeping up with their speeding machines, and tend to quilt in a larger scale. Speed is a very individual thing, no right or wrong.
Your friend or everyone on your quilting forum might tell you to speed up and you’ll be better! Another friend will say slow down, you’ll be better! Actually, you have to listen to your own needs, personality, and quilting style, and then, you’ll be better.
I use all speeds in my quilting. I learned to quilt by applying the same kind of operating methods with my sewing machine that I used for sewing garments, or for piecing quilts. If it was a long smooth seam, I pressed that pedal and went fast, guiding the fabric with my hands, letting the feed dogs make the even stitches.
Sometimes I would back off on the foot control, when I needed to sew carefully, stitch by stitch. Inserting a collar, setting in a sleeve, sewing on a patch pocket—all techniques I did much more slowly. In piecing, just the same. Some long strips could be sewn together at a fast speed, yet setting in a “Y” seam needed a more cautious approach.
Naturally when I began to do free motion machine quilting I used these same sewing machine operating techniques and still do. I quilt faster now, because it is second nature to me, and repetition makes everything easier after awhile. But I still slow down when I get into tricky places, have to really nail a difficult design, or when I’m doing particular designs that might need more care to get them right.
And that means slowing down both the speed of the machine, and my hands. Many quilters slow their hands, that’s natural when there is a tricky spot or you can’t quite see, but fail to slow the machine as well. Larger galloping stitches are the result. Hands and foot must work together to create beautiful stitches.
Some designs I still do at one even speed, like “Diane-shiko,” a background fill done on a marked 1/2" grid, below, that I use in place of traditional cross-hatch grids. Even with this one-speed design, after I’ve quilted it for awhile at a session, I find that I am quilting faster than when I began. You get comfortable, into a rhythm, and learn where to look to allow you to go a bit faster---and maintain the same quality.
Most of my students tend to move their hands too fast, and run the machine too slowly. Learn to run the machine a bit faster, and slow down your hands for beautiful, even stitches.
Some are very, very fast quilters indeed. If you experience a sense of glee at your fast speed, and look at your finished quilting and like the results, then you are in the right speed zone.
Never apologize or worry about the speed YOU use. Do what is comfortable for you. The quality of a quilt is not based on how long it took you to quilt it, but the final outcome. Enjoy the journey.
News! My little red silk "quiltlet" pictured at the top of the post is now available for purchase with a bid now. Proceeds go to support the "Sew Red" campaign by Bernina, for the American Heart Association. It is about 9" x 12" on red silk dupioni, quilted freehand in red silk thread. The central motif is one of the original designs I did for the Bernina 830, only this one was done free motion with a little artistic license. If you are interested in more information, contact Bigsby's Sewing Center, 262-785-1177 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We all thank you for your support. It's a beautiful little quilt.
Information on "Diane-shiko" is in my book, Quilt Savvy - Gaudynski's Machine Quilting Guidebook.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Back to basics
So no apologies from me - I still love quilts that remind me of ones made hundreds of years ago. I think the pioneer women especially, with limited supplies and the necessity of making warm bed covers out of what might have seemed like "thin air," were true pioneers in the art quilt movement. They used what they had and made some amazing compositions that still command our respect and admiration. One little piece of Turkey red placed well in the top turned a dull array of shirtings into a visual delight.
My little basket quilt was a sample I pieced together out of blocks made to demo the piecing techniques for it. When asked to appear on Simply Quilts about 10 years ago, I used it to layer and mark and show how you would do this for machine quilting a top. When I returned home, it seemed like a wise idea to go right ahead and quilt it.
I used #100 YLI silk thread, mostly neutral shades, as that is all I had at the time when I was just beginning to venture into using opaque colored threads for the quilting. I discovered that most of the colors in the quilt could easily be quilted using the neutrals and look just fine. The old idea of color matching exactly the thread to the fabric that hung on in my mind from my days of sewing garments sort of went out the window.
It took me more years of using this thread to realize its full potential, and now it is the extra touch I use to give my quilts depth, highlights, dimension. I still avoid using very dark fine thread on lighter fabrics as the machine stitch does not look wonderful nor does your quilting if you do this. Stitching over a line of quilting to get to the next area is not obvious, as you can see in the rosette in the corner square, below.
This basket quilt has simple quilting throughout, but has a complex border design that creates a lovely frame. The sashing and inner borders don't have background quilting, just basic cables or pumpkin seed designs. The basket has clamshells and continuous curves, and my favorite part was the straight parallel lines of backgrounds, exactly as a hand quilter would have done in the 1800's. This basic style is what made the quilt look vintage, even though done on my modern sewing machine. Stippling, or any of my new backgrounds, done around the baskets would have been just fine, but definitely have taken away from the mood of vintage. One basic old fashioned design,straight parallel lines, did so much for this quilt.
The lines were done free motion and I didn't mark them. I learned to look ahead of the needle and aim ahead, use a speed where I could stay in control yet fast enough for smoothness. Sometimes in larger areas it's a good idea to mark a "plumb line" or horizon line so there is something to keep you going straight. I did not use the edge of my foot as a guide, instead, I visualized the "puff" I was creating between the lines, and that was much easier for me and made everything fall into place so much better.
And the most important thing is to quilt the lines on the bias just as the old hand-quilted ones were done. There will be the least amount of distortion, "snow plowing," or pushing fabric along and causing a pleat when you arrive at a ditch or previously stitched line if you quilt a straight line on the bias. Yes, I did stitch in the ditch first, and around each basket. Everything stayed perfectly in place, there was no excess at all, and each basket background was more even and better than the last.
It's also a wise idea to do all one sort of quilting at a time - in this case, I quilted around each basket, then within each basket with the designs there, and finally all the backgrounds, one after the other, with a tiny break or mental "re-boot" time in between each one. This worked to increase my skill with the built-in repetition.
If you have some old tops pieced up that maybe don't interest you anymore, take one out, mark some basic designs on it, and quilt it up. Use some of your newer freehand designs as well to add to the complexity of your quilting, some un-marked feathers, whatever.
If I were quilting this top now? I'd probably have some echo feathers sprouting around those baskets, or a bird perched above one every now and then, but maybe the old way is still the best for simplicity and holding true to the roots of our quilting heritage.
Or....you could piece up a classic design like this in bright, bold, funky fabrics and quilt it, enjoy it, love the colors you have used and enjoy re-visiting each one as you quilt over it. The thing is, you need to look down at your work and love it. Love the fabrics, the colors, thread, designs you quilt. Then you will do your very best.
The pattern for this basket block and quilt are in my book Guide to Machine Quilting, still available at http://www.americanquilter.com/ or other major booksellers' sites.
Have fun deciding, and keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
A new day
I will continue to do monthly tips there at http://www.dianegaudynski.net/ as well as news on my Notebook page, plus all schedule and workshop information, but here? If something pops into my mind as I am quilting or thinking about what went right or wrong in a class, I will post my thoughts and news here.
Way back when I first began my website and about five people at most would visit, I had a page called "Ruminations...." This blog is the new version of that popular page, a work in progress.
Currently I am preparing for two 3-day classes in Paducah, KY at the National Quilt Museum, and am looking forward to seeing old friends there, former students, and new quilters coming to hone their machine quilting skills. If you have any questions about the class, what to bring, what we'll be doing, please email me.
"The Adventure Continues" will be independent study with the project of your choice. I will present some new techniques, help you solve problems you have encountered since your first class with me, and we will work together to brainstorm some ideas for various quilting situations. I have a feeling "the dreaded lagoon of puff" will come up in our class!
Keep quilting - your work gets better every day,