Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Season's Greetings

From ice and snow, wind and below zero temperatures here in Wisconsin, USA, I wish you all a fond season's greetings.  

I hope to do more blog posts when my health improves.  Meanwhile, keep quilting, your work gets better every day.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Day

The turkey is roasting (with Oliver's help), pie is baked (with Oliver's help), and the remaining food is next on our list to do.  It is a dreary day here, but cozy, bright and warm inside, with good food and each other.  Hope your day is wonderful, and you take some time to be thankful for the special things, sometimes the little things, that make our lives blessed.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving '10

Happy Thanksgiving, may you all have blessings too numerous to list! 

I tried dressing  Oliver as a Pilgrim, or a turkey, or even holding a pumpkin pie, but he was truly not interested.  His big passion now is crouching by the windows and front glass door and squeaking at the Juncos in the bushes outdoors.  We are counting our blessing of Oliver, our new cat, in our life.  He brought back sunshine to us.

I've been piecing a small quilt, discovering the pleasure of working with fabrics, arranging color and designs to form something I like.  It's very relaxing to sew small pieces together, press and starch, play on the design wall.  I hear my music playing softly, the leaves are still blowing past my windows, or the fog is rolling in.  Soon winter will arrive, but this is a great way to begin the season, when lights go on at 4:30 p.m., and wonderful scents come from the kitchen.

Try quilting on pumpkin fabric, it's far less fattening than pie.....although today I am shopping for ingredients for homemade pumpkin pie, my mother's recipe, including the pie crust.  It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Motion Feet: Observations

Free motion feet can make all the difference in the success you'll have for various techniques.  Above, two of my favorite feet for my Berninas, the #29 plastic foot, and the #24 embroidery foot.  Each is perfect for various types of free motion quilting.

Both have a built-in spring so there is a gentle "hopping" action as the foot releases and then presses down as each stitch is made.  This not only creates an excellent stitch but gives you the feeling that feed dogs are working and you are not skating alone on the ice. 

If there is too much of the up/down action, decreasing the pressure on the foot with a control on the machine itself smooths everything out and will let you move the quilt more easily as well.  This works for thicker batts, excess puff you need to work in, bulky seams in pieced work.

Open toe or not?  I love my open toe foot for the precise type of quilting I do.  I need to see exactly where the needle is, where I am stitching over a previous line of quilting, if it is in the right place.  A closed toe would make it so hard to see these crucial points, and I would become tense and aching, hoping to hit the line or design point "just right."  A closed toe foot prevents this great visibility.  Tiny clamshells with a closed-toe foot are almost impossible for me, but easy with an open-toe foot.

However, if there are long smooth lines of quilting needed such as the spines/centers of feathers then I like the closed toe foot that seems to be designed to keep everything smooth and even, like an embroidery hoop around the needle.  It distributes the puff of the batt perfectly, and keeps the fabric from creeping along and forming little ripples between two line of opposite direction quilting. 

For stay stitching at the edge of the quilt or any straight line quilting done free motion in the quilt I love my closed toe #29 foot.  It makes the job easier.  But, as I quilt, I look ahead of the needle, not the needle itself.

Recently in my Paducah classes I saw the new Janome foot, below, photo by Ann Fahl and used with her permission. 

This foot comes with three options for the base, an open toe, a closed toe, and a large circular plastic foot with rings in it used as guides for spacing free motion quilting such as echo quilting.

What attracted my eye immediately to it was the built-in way to adjust it in the spring itself, on the foot itself.  Instead of adjusting how tight the foot sits on the quilt, you can easily change the foot itself to float more easily, to eliminate the hopping action, and glide instead, whatever you like.  It worked very well for those who had it on their Janomes.

Sometimes we don't realize the right tool will do the job better and make quilting so much easier and more relaxing.

Looking at these photos you can tell there is a more unobstructed view with my Bernina feet too. 

See what your machine has available.  Investigate.  Try out something new, or something you've had all along but is now in the back of some drawer.  And keep informed with what your brand of machine has available.  Sometimes, like the Janome foot, there is a new tool for you that is super. 

Visit your brand's website, join a forum online, go to your dealer and browse, but use your own best judgment about what will work best for your style of work.

Oliver likes the #29 foot best to kitty-hockey around the sewing room.  Sigh.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sandra Leichner's New Book, and Oliver Bites Back

Oliver fell asleep admiring the beautiful quilt on the cover of Sandra Leichner's new book, just released from AQS, Hand Applique with Embroidery.  He gave his "paw of approval" but was so tired from torpedo-ing around the house today that he fell asleep before a photo could capture the actual reading process.  Believe me, he is smart enough to enjoy a good book!

Sandi just received the Fairfield Master Award for Contemporary Artistry, a $5000 prize at the International Quilt Festival, Houston, for her cover quilt, Tea With Miss D. 

If you are lucky enough to have seen it at Houston Market or Festival or when it was in the juried AQS show at Paducah in April you will know the incredible artistry and skill it took to create such a quilt.  Yet, it is delightful, makes you smile, and somehow her technical expertise looks effortless.  It doesn't get in the way of the quilt's beauty, but makes it all happen.  
Go to http://www.quilts.com/ and click on the winners' list to see her quilt, or to her website http://www.sandraleichner.com/ 

Although I will never be an appliquer, I did enjoy this book.  If you want to refine your techniques or learn applique and embroidery, find out how to get the perfection Sandi achieves,  how she embroiders all that detail, picks the fabrics, layers them for the best overall effect, then you need this book. 

I liked the charts with organized information about threads, needles, anything technical.  You don't have to search through text to find what you want to know.

The photos are great, the colors stunning, and you will drool over her quilts throughout the book.  Yes, there are patterns, and there are projects.  You will learn to do this and have small, complete-able projects when finished with various techniques she explains, step by step. 

I love the little bit in the book for each area called "Why is this important?"  It's great to have the respect of an author who tells you the why of it, really a good addition to the book's format. 

All her applique and embroidery is by hand, and it is exquisitely done.  Quilting?  Done on a home machine (Bernina 730), free motion, original marked designs and lovely freehand fills.  The combination of well executed artistic quilting and hand applique is a true winner.

Which quilt of Sandi's do I like the best?  I have seen Sandi's quilts from her first one entered at Houston in 2001, and through the years since then.  Their richness and detail, their art, will stay with you always.   Tea With Miss D will always have a special place in my heart though.

I like that she respects the art of machine quilting enough to use it to complete her hand artistry. 

Meanwhile, browsing the internet looking for info on Houston and wishing I were there, my computer suddenly died again.  Oh no! 

Two days earlier my husband's new laptop had a power cord failure and he had to get a new cord.  I had him check it for teeth marks.  Yes, there were teeth marks.  Mine too had teeth marks. 

Oliver strikes again!  We are so relieved he didn't get hurt but have to find ways to hide the cords from him.  He likes the thin cable from the computer to the adapter part, the kind my sewing machine has to the foot control, but that he hasn't yet discovered.

I used a light rubbing of Tabasco sauce on the tv cable that comes out of the wall, and one bite of that stopped him in his tracks.  His expression was hilarious.

I got a new generic power cord for my laptop, no waiting for Mr. Sony to send me one this time, and will get a new battery this week too.  I plan on using it on battery in waking hours, charging it overnight with the new cord in a closed room.  We have a mixing bowl over husband's cord on the kitchen island.  So far it is working, Oliver can't move it.  It's heavy English pottery.

Below, the photo of what I did to protect the cord.  They do have cord covers available to buy that are infused with citrus, but the reviews said they had a horrible insecticide odor, so I crossed those off my list.

Instead, I got drinking straws that were a special thank you gift from Ami Simms (don't ask why), cut them in half lengthwise, and slipped them over the cable, taped them together and closed.  Then I wrapped a twill tape around the whole thing and turned it into the Mummy Cord.  It is working!  He isn't even interested!  I do put it away when I am not around or am sleeping, and eventually with the new battery can keep the cord out of his life completely.

Hope you are enjoying fall, no snow yet in Wisconsin.  Cold, yes.  I am washing and sorting some lovely Moda fabrics received from Hancock's of Paducah for the new Pilgrim/Roy Challenge, "Twenty Great Quilts for Twenty Great Years," to celebrate the upcoming 20th Anniversary of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.    I get to add two fabrics of my own, and am busy designing a small wall quilt using all of them, and plan on trying out some of my new quilting techniques.  I have learned to do a deadline project right away.....just in case.  These quilts will be auctioned live at the AQS show in '12, and will tour in '11 so you can see them.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cat needs a home.....

This handsome boy needs a home.   One of my quilting friends in SE Wisconsin has rescued him after feeding him for a month, but our bitter cold winds this week and the onset of winter soon made it mandatory for her to bring him in from the cold. 

Now he has been neutered and has all his treatments and is ready for a home.  Her house is full with other cats she has taken in and now loves, and she is so wishing a new home would be possible for this friendly and loving cat. 

"Hello! Meow!

What are you waiting for?
Kitty needs your lap!

Last night he spent an hour in my lap - happily cleaning himself and giving me kisses.

He might even be a shoulder-cruiser. I know he loves to be carried.

Please let us know that you want to love him."

And from Mr. Tuxedo himself:

"I am Tuxedo Kitty.

I am a young male. I was an outdoor kitty until October 27, when I was taken inside following those big scary windstorms.

Even though I never knew a gentle human touch I quickly recognized that petting makes me start my motor.

I love being carried and I love being petted and I love just lounging in a soft lap.

I really don’t want to live in a barn and am looking for a nice home with friendly hands to touch me.

My rescuer has 6 indoor kitties already and while I thought this would be a nice home, my rescuer takes her kitties to Florida. I can sympathize that the car would be pretty full with 7 of us plus two humans.

If you or your friends will take me, I will love you forever.


Tuxedo kitty Lake Geneva, WI October 31, 2010"

If anyone is interested, please email me at diane@dianegaudynski.net
I realize this is for a limited geographic area, but I wanted to do my part in spreading the news about this little guy. 


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Skipping Along

I am back home from my wonderful time in Paducah at the National Quilt Museum and two classes for 39 terrific quilters.  The weather was amazing, the best I've ever experienced there, cool at night, dry and sunny and 70's in the day with autumn color and deep blue skies.  Lovely.

We quilted and we learned.  I always learn so much from those in class and we laughed a lot too.  One of the techniques I stressed this time was curving parallel lines, and learning to echo quilt well so that anything is possible. 

Depending on the batt, thread used, fabrics, as well as design choice, switching to a smaller needle gave a better result unless one of those things wasn't quite right, and then we had problems. 

One problem can be skipped stitches, see sample in photo above.  Everything was working fine for one student until she put in a #60 needle with a fine cotton thread.  A combination of the thin batt and the small needle caused skipped stitches.  Going back to the #70 needle solved the problem. 

Almost always skipped stitches are caused by one of the following:
  •  the needle being too small for the thread
  •  the batt being very thin and flat
  •  the presser foot pressure too low
  •  a defective needle
  •  threading done incorrectly
  •  hands too fast for the speed of the machine
Sometimes it is a combination of things, so try one thing at a time.  Re-thread, try a bigger needle, check the pressure on the foot for the thickness of the batt.

The thicker and poufier the batt, the lower the pressure on the foot should be so the quilt will glide smoothly and easily.  I switch mine to a lower pressure if I need to quilt over an island of puff without causing pleats,  increase it for doing free motion straight lines for a bit more control.  I usually decrease the pressure a bit for any free motion quilting for ease of movement, and to avoid the dreaded snowplowing of excess fabric, and the inevitable pleat that results.

Also, slow down your hands to a smooth even consistent motion.  If you want to move them faster, increase the speed of the machine to keep up with them.  Needles stop breaking and skipped stitches will be a memory.

By the way, in the photo, above, the thread tension is perfect.  You want a softly curving stitch, no visible bobbin thread, that showcases the thread, that doesn't stretch it flat and tight.  I usually recommend for all free motion quilting lowering the top tension one number.  Some of the newer machines might need less, or some not any depending on the thread, but a little leeway for the stitches to go in all directions is a very good thing.  And I didn't really have skipped stitches; I moved the needle over a bit and then continued to get a facsimile of a skipped stitch.

Try some curving, echoed lines for an interesting new way of quilting.  The bowl, above, should give you some ideas and a challenge!

I will be teaching at the museum in Paducah, KY next October in 2011, an introductory class first for quilters with free motion experience, and an advanced class for returning students to continue the adventure.  Check the museum's website for information; there are still openings in these classes, and I have not booked any more events after '11.  http://www.quiltmuseum.org/

It's great to be home, Oliver really, really missed me and spent all day yesterday playing, attacking me, helping me unpack, scratching my suitcases, and having an ecstatic cat day.  I wish I could take him along, but perhaps his adventures will have to remain sniffing my shoes and clothes and wondering where I have been.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Packing for Paducah


Halloween is coming up, pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps here, and the quilting above highlights two bat creatures emerging in some hand dyed fabric a few years ago. 

I quilted for a day at least until I saw them peering up at me, and decided to emphasize their presence with quilting rather than quilting over them.  Below, another creature that appeared in this fabric, wildly flinging his bat cape around and beckoning to me as I was trying to concentrate on my stitching.

I'm busy packing for Paducah, leaving early tomorrow for two classes at the National Quilt Museum, so hope to see many of you soon.  I will be the one with my car filled with quilting stuff.  Oh yes, I guess many of you will be in that same situation! 

Each class takes its own path, never are any the same even when I try to keep on the same agenda.  I hope to have everyone leave class a better quilter and more confident in their own skills.

The second class is for graduates of any of my classes in the past, and they already know my style, have worked on their own and now want to learn more and refine their quilting.  Hope we have some great group sharing from all the talented participants.

Recently I did an interview for http://www.asianartandquilts.com/ so check that out if you want to read my answers to the interview questions.

Meanwhile, see many of you soon in Quilt City USA, and keep quilting, your work gets better every day!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Designs for Machine Embroidery/Quilting

Yesterday Fed Ex dropped off my new collection of quilting/embroidery designs, "Quilting Whimsy."  It is a beautiful package, and when flipped over the back shows all the designs included. 

I was surprised!  I didn't remember doing some of them, oh my, but there is a nice selection of, yes, whimsical designs.  Birds, rabbits, a sleeping cat, gingko, the mourning dove from my Alzheimer's exhibit quilt, florals, fronds, feathers, even some new styles.  A square with a feather outline to use for featuring other designs or full-out embroidery, and two nice large mega-hoop designs are included. 

With software and your embroidery module you can make some amazing combinations and effects with the individual motifs.  Be creative!

Bernina has this featured on their website and blog, http://www.berninausa.com/ and will have a sample quilt at Houston Market and Festival - go check it out!  It is very heirloom and lovely, and doesn't look 'machine made' or computer-y at all.

Oliver has been helping me with many things lately, and daily he is changing and growing, his personality evolving.  I think he feels secure here now, and has that cat sense that he will be here always.  His early life included many places and experiences so our dull routine seems to suit him just fine.  He sneaked outside when the door was open a second too long and the thrill of it kept him flying around the house for hours.  He was only out there 6 seconds tops, but wow, the excitement.

Below, he is channeling our Arnie, who was our only cat who crossed his paws so elegantly.  He looks perfectly coordinated on the quilt too, imagine that.  Oliver just began doing this, and of course in the same spots where Arnie sat.  Arnie would have loved this little guy.

Hope you enjoy the onset of autumn and all the delights it brings.  Keep quilting, your work does get better every day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sifting and Sorting and Quilting Straight Lines

I have been sifting and sorting through my quilts and everything else in the house for two months.  I have unearthed many interesting things, with Oliver's help of course.

I started thinking about the use of background quilting.  When I first started machine quilting and had vast areas of space around piecing and designs I knew I had to quilt "something." 

I was using flat cotton batts, so there was minimal excess "pouf" in the quilt, so most of the time I left larger areas in piecing, some narrow borders, etc., unquilted.  Above, the large points of the stars are not quilted, the center square has a cross hatch grid, but the tiny pieces too are unquilted.

Then came the background around the stars.  I looked at old handquilted quilts  to see what quilters of the past had done, as they worked with cotton batting as well, and it needed fairly close quilting to stabilize it.  One of the most common solutions was parallel lines about 1/4" apart.  I felt it gave my quilt a true antique, hand quilted look, so decided I'd try it!  I had no experience with this technique, and no fear.  I was a beginner.

Here is the quilt when I recently unfolded it from storage and saw my early work, larger stitches (but even stitches), invisible thread, all done free motion.  The lines, grids, outline quilting, everything was done free motion. 

I didn't like using a walking foot and be unable to quilt in any direction.  Contant turning of the quilt drove me to distraction, so I knew early on that free motion was the answer, and the only way to quilt a large quilt that could not be turned easily once under the needle was to hunker down and do it free motion.

I based this quilt on several old feathered star quilts but used Trudie Hughes' rotary cutting techniques to cut and piece the blocks.  In the black and white photos I had of old block quilts many of them had these parallel lines as background.  They happen to run across the bias grain of the fabric, as the blocks are on point.

Little did I know then that it was the best way to hand quilt a straight line, and it is by far the easiest and best way to machine quilt a straight line.  Quilting a line on the bias grain prevents distortion.  No excess fabric will be pushed and pulled as you quilt the lines as can happen oh so often if you quilt on grainlines, especially cross grain. 

I didn't know the key to echo quilting at that time, which is to visualize the space between the lines of quilting and keep that even.  Instead I used the edge of my #9 Bernina foot as a guide and found it difficult but I persevered.  It was a bit like looking at your car's tires and the side of the road to stay on the road, rather than looking ahead, down the road.

I learned to tilt the quilt a bit so I could see behind the foot as I quilted away from myself.  The back of the foot on my 1030 really was in the way.  On my newer Berninas (200 and 730) the back of the foot is offset to the "2 o'clock" position so I can see perfectly behind the foot/needle, and there is no big thumb screw or other obstruction in the way either.

Some of my quilted lines on this quilt are a little "off" and some spacing is wider or narrower than others throughout the quilt.  It certainly does not look like digitized quilting! 

I keyed off a straight line drawn from corner to corner in the setting square blocks, and extra lines were included here and there to act as "horizon" lines, to help me stay level and even. 

After I quilted awhile I would get into the flow of it and by the end of the quilt my lines and spacing were very good indeed.  There were some areas that did develop excess fabric and I had to ease that in and work slowly so I didn't stitch in pleats, but overall I was pleased with this look.  At the time I did not stipple, and could not envision it in large areas like this.

I was relieved when it was done, and I loved this quilt, and it went on the bed.

It was named "Feathered Star," did well in Wisconsin quilt shows and someone encouraged me to enter it in the AQS Paducah show.  It was accepted, which almost caused heart failure when I received the letter and my name badge for the show.  Of course my sister Mary and I went in '93, and seeing my humble quilt hanging there with hand quilted masterpieces was the reward for the hours I had spent learning to free motion quilt. 

It didn't win a prize, but it always had a crowd around it and people at that time were truly unbelieving that it was machine quilted.  It had no obvious machine quilting motifs or techniques.  I used everything a hand quilter would have used 100 years ago, and it was rich and warm with its freckled cream background, and those amazing lines I quilted. 

Now we are using zillions of background motifs to cover territory and create visual interest in our machine quilted quilts.  I still prefer the more unassuming backgrounds, things that don't take over but support the color and main designs.  I like thread that gives warmth but isn't the focal point.  I don't like backgrounds that jump out at you.  I want you to look at the design, not the thread.

We all have our personal preferences and you should definitely quilt your quilt the way you want it to look.  I have since embraced very fine weight colored threads, subtle color gradations, even a bit of shine or sparkle here and there. 

And sometimes I think back to my first quilts done by machine with nothing but straight lines done with a walking foot, or later designs on scrappy prints and no background quilting at all, and they are still good quilts. 

Sorting through my quilts made me start thinking of machine quilting and how it has changed over the past years and how I approach my own work in light of all the change.  I have made many changes, but my work will never look modern or glitzy.

We also sorted a closet of husband's clothing this weekend, and Oliver helped with the shirts.  He got so tired attacking the empty hangers as we tossed them in a heap that he crawled into the shirts and fell asleep. 

I think his paw has grown too.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quilting Whimsy Available Now....

September is here, and my new collection of quilting designs for your embroidery module is available now!  "Quilting Whimsy" includes animals, feathers, ferns and fronds, even more contemporary starbursts and other designs, something for all your projects.  They can be used as quilting or as outline embroidery, you decide, you pick the thread weight to make them work for you.

It is multi-format, so you can use it in many brands of machines, and get the right delivery system.

Bernina has done a wonderful heirloom quilt with the rabbit designs on an ivory silk radiance fabric and gives you the directions on their website.  Go to http://www.berninausa.com/ and scroll down to see what's in my collection.

Nina's quilt "Bunny, Oh Bunny" is found in the embroidery section at  http://www.berninausa.com/content-n599-sUS.html

I saw it at Wisconsin Quilt Expo a week ago, a wonderful quilt show, some inspiring quilts, and great friends.  My sister Mary and her friends from Small Town Quilters in Mercer, WI came to the event and I spent some time with them.  Below, Elizabeth, Nancy, Mary, and Toots, all in their custom embroidered red tees so they were easy to spot. 


Hope you are enjoying fall, getting back to some quilting.  It's been a long miserable summer here, so the first signs of color in the leaves, cool mornings, insects humming are all so welcome.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day '10

A holiday weekend, finally some cool weather and Fall is in the air.  I found this doll bed, above, while cleaning the odd corners of the house, and also found an old whole-cloth stencil I quilted for a class sample years ago, wedged behind a bookcase.  It seemed a fortuitous pairing, so I made up the bed with the tiny quilt, and am enjoying it for awhile.  I think it shall go to a better home with visiting granddaughters and lots of use eventually, but for now it is dandy in my front hall.

Haven't been quilting much at all, just enough to keep my machine moving well, sort of like old bodies, thinking about upcoming classes at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY.  Wisconsin Quilt Expo is coming up and I hope to get to that and be inspired.  It has been a long miserable summer, and seeing some lovely quilts and good friends will be perfect.

I am always on the hunt for good questions to answer in my one-page column in American Quilter Magazine.  The upcoming issue has a great thread chart for you to clip and save that helps with weight of thread and style of quilting pairing, and I also have completed the January one.  I've had great questions emailed to me through the AQS website, http://www.americanquilter.com/ for those articles, but need more.

If you have one about machine quilting that would be useful for many to see answered, send it in! 

I'm home alone this weekend with Oliver, who is definitely changing now that he is turning from kitten to cat.  He sleeps more, and is getting bored with former activities that would keep him happy and busy for hours.  I search for entertainment, but really, I warned him he was coming to live with two old, boring people and he'd have to make the best of it.  I'll probably stop at the pet store and look for a fun new toy for him.....

Meanwhile, I do hope your quilting is progressing well, you are doing the quilting on your own quilts, and seeing results in actually quilting tops, not just practicing. 

Keep quilting....your work gets better every day.

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, http://www.thimbleworks.com/ 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, http://www.annfahl.blogspot.com/   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.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Needle, Thread, and Fabric

Many times finding the right thread, needle, and fabric combination is the key to experiencing non-frustrating machine quilting.

The sample of one of my new "Quilting Whimsy" digitized designs, above, was done on fine cotton fabric ("Gradations" by Caryl Bryer Fallert for Benartex) with #100 silk YLI thread and a #60 Schmetz Microtex Sharp needle. 

However, when I decided to do one line of echo quilting with "Sparkle," a YLI thread that combines #100 silk with a strand of metallic, I switched to a #80 Topstitch needle, which has always handled threads that tend to fray or skip just fine.  This time it did, but not as well as I would have liked.

Every so often a skipped stitch, oh no.  A bit of gold metallic showed through to the backing, oh no.  And worse, it would ball up behind the needle and fray to the point that I noticed no gold in the stitch at all, had to stop, re-thread, then continue, which resulted in.......frustration!

After doing some research, one of my students contacted me with the same problem and she went directly to the manufacturer of the thread, YLI.  I also did the same, and the answer was something I would never have considered, a JERSEY ball point needle!  Who knew!  I thought they were for knits only, wrong.

Evidently the friction from going through a pierced hole in the cotton fabric, rather than a nice opening made by the ball point needle was fraying the thread.  I bought some #80 SUK Schmetz Jersey ball point needles, put one in my machine, and gave the Sparkle thread a big workout. 

It worked perfectly.  None of the problems occurred.  I did have to quilt just a bit slower, lowered the top tension more, and I took a slightly larger stitch than with plain silk thread.  Sometimes it looked a little wobbly when going in directions away from myself, but all in all, very nice, definitely will use this again in a quilt and know I will have good results with the proper needle.

The thread itself is lovely.  It isn't a full-on metallic, so for me blends into the quilt well, but shows well too.  It is subtle bling, a touch of fairy dust on your quilt.  It comes in gold or silver with various neutral silk threads.

The new issue of the AQS magazine Quilt Life has a good article about thread with comments by many in the industry.  We do need to keep up on thread information so when we choose something that will enhance our work we can get it to work for us.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Unpacking and Napping

Home is wonderful after you have been away.  Everything seems new and fresh and bright, yet familiar and comfortable, welcoming you in.  I opened the door from the garage, came in the kitchen, and Oliver tore around the corner and ran full tilt into my arms.  He purred so hard he was shaking, with happiness and disbelief.  I guess I probably was purring too....oh my, so good to be home.

I had a terrific week at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar near Monterey, California.  It was cool and lovely, some fog in the mornings, low to mid 60's during the day.  One lunch hour I tried for about 10 minutes to stand and chat outside and get a tan but nope, just felt good, no tan for me. 

Unpacking is almost done.  I pulled out pile after pile of samples and things from my clown-car suitcase, above, and re-lived the week through the variety of interesting objects that surfaced, like my own archaeological dig. 

Top of the pile was my new tote, my Laurel Burch socks that my students told me Oliver made them buy for me, and my new bag of Pinmoor fasteners for layering a quilt with fine straight pins.  They caused a little excitement, as the inventor, Loretta Ivison was in our class.  You can check them out at http://www.pinmoor.com/.  Oliver liked my socks and tried eating them.  I didn't let him even see the Pinmoors.

He also tried eating the hand squeeze workout ball for quilters so that is already in a drawer, along with 2 yards of the new Pellon Legacy wool batt that somehow compressed into my suitcase.  If it was opened by security, I bet they jumped when all that batt popped out at them!  It looked the same as I had packed it, so they must have missed the fun. 

I'm thinking this wool batt is lovely, not quite as thick and sprongy as Hobbs has been recently, so I will post when I get a chance to try it out.

It was a great group of students, all y'all who were there know that, and I hope new quilting adventures await you with what we learned in class.  I left at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of the Pacific, and arrived back in Wisconsin about suppertime.  Long day, I was very tired, tons of holiday travelers, and it was really hot and steamy here, but so good to see the familiar Wisconsin landscape, and actually get in my own car and drive.  

It was nice to see some of my other teaching friends there, and hear a memorable presentation by Nancy S. Brown who made me wonder what have I been missing all these years with no penguins in my quilts?  I don't think I have laughed so hard in years. 

The next a.m. while diagramming what not to do with pod flowers on the board in class, those penguins somehow sneaked in after all to my work.  Below, I quickly added some jaunty sunglasses and now I think I can make a winner!

Yes, we do have fun in class.  But, I can only imagine Nancy's class....

Another thing I noticed on the way home was a floor mat in the airport that looked like an interesting variation on our Celtic Bubbles or fans, below.  Play with these echoing lines and come up with your own designs.


See you next year at Empty Spools, and keep quilting, your work gets better every day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Blog List, and Followers

Detail, OESD design for Mega Hoop

I do have a very short  blog list here.  When I started this blog about a year ago, blundering around in the blogger instructions, I added a few I knew about, and didn't think too much about it.  I like that it is there, that you can see what's going on elsewhere with exciting quilters. 

Although I don't spend a lot of time browsing the internet and other blogs at all, maybe once every month I see what quilt shops are featuring.  Or I might click on one of you Followers, because you have so many fantastic blogs, quilts, activities, as well as lovely information and photos.

Last night I clicked on our Miss Ivory Spring and noted she did a wonderful post about quilting with Aurifil #50 cotton thread and YLI #100 silk thread, my personal favorites for my particular style, but of course not the "only" choices for machine quilting.  Please go to her blog, now on my list at the right, and check out this entry and her beautiful work.  Thanks Ivory Spring, your quilting and designs took my breath away. 

Also related to threads to use, in an upcoming column for American Quilter Magazine I answer a question sent in by a reader about thread weights and style of quilting.  I even devised a chart for you to clip out and save.  I believe it is for the November issue, but will let you know.  Yes, we work way way ahead of publication dates.

Questions arrive all the time about thread.  It is such an important choice for you when quilting, as it determines the look and style of the quilt as much as perhaps the fabric choices and design.  Well, maybe not as much, but it is very important.  That's why there are zillions of threads out there now.  And more on the way.  There is the right thread for every person.

I'll be writing more on threads in the future.  Basically, you need to know what thread weight and color will express the style or mood of a piece the best.  Yes, you do have to get some experience, quilt out some prototypes, buy a bit of thread to experiment.  Believe me, some day even if you don't use a spool for that project, it will come in handy.

Back to my blog, and for some reason, every time I type that word it shows up as "blot" instead, maybe some subconsious thing I have going on, who knows.

Anyway, I was showing my husband my blog last night (he wanted to see Oliver on the book)  on his delightful new laptop, and showed him if you click on the squares by "followers" you get a nice big sample window of all the little personalized icons for each and every one of you.  It is like a patchwork quilt, just beautiful. 

You can scroll through and get a new "quilt" with each click.  It's beautiful, you are all wonderful.  I want to thank all of you for being a "follower" in your very busy lives, and for participating in the comment section.  It keeps things interesting!

Truly this creates an incredible connection, a 'web' of quilters and information for all to share.  Click on any one of you and a new adventure can begin.

Hope you have a great weekend, take some time for quilting if possible.  I love seeing what you are doing.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book is Cat Approved!

Today as I was straightening things up in the bedroom/office, Oliver decided to read Ann Fahl's new book, Dancing with Thread.  When finished he put his "paw of approval" on it, plus I think he loved the colors on the cover, he looks maaaahvelous on these shades.

It's a visually beautiful book, and gets your mind going about new ways to quilt if you are experienced, and for beginners it is an excellent way to learn basics but in a creative way.  Lots of good quilting motifs, but more importantly, how and where to use them.

Ann's style is different from mine, but the methods we use are very similar.  Learn your machine, get the tension right, choose the right batt and needle and thread combo, take your time and let it all flow.  You will love being a free motion machine quilter!

Enjoy these beautiful June days too.  Here in Wisconsin it is one of the prettiest times of the year, everything is green, growing, blooming, reborn.  It uplifts you, and I know it restores our sometimes downtrodden spirits.

Keep quilting!  Your work does get better every day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ann Fahl's New Book

If you think it is time for a new book about machine quilting on your home machine, then take a look at Dancing with Thread, by Ann Fahl.

Ann gave me a copy awhile back, and I have so enjoyed going through it, especially liking the beautiful photos of her quilts, great detail shots too.

This is a very complete overview of what it takes to put a big quilt in your home machine and do freehand quilting over it with various threads that make the top come alive.  It also describes the process of machine quilting so that you are relaxed and can do your best.

There is a lot of technical info that is helpful too, batts, needles and threads, preparing a quilt, blocking and finishing it.  The projects at the end take you from a beginning level up to doing wonderful work. 

I know sometimes it seems every day a new book on this subject comes out, but I always pick up something new from each author, a design, a problem-soliving tip, inspiration, and Ann comes through for us with this one.  Give it a look.

And keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.