Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Fall is right around the corner, back to school is just about here, and the sunbeams are streaming in at a new dazzling angle.  Oliver has found his old cozy spot on the soft throw on the back of the couch every evening, rather than his summer spot, stretched out on the hardwood floor.  The summer is winding down.

I was thinking of more grid-based designs using my June Tailor Grid Marker stencil that lets you mark those perfect lines with no gaps so quickly.  My first favorite background or space-filler was a cross-hatch grid.  Next came "Diane-shiko," the classic sashiko design but done not in circles that overlapped, but over a marked grid, lines removed when quilting is finished. 

Then came Apple Core.   My students embraced these designs and most could quilt them well with a bit of practice.  It gave everyone such a fabulous design basic to use over and over, giving a structured look to contrast with more circular flowing designs.  It's good to have structure.

But another one?  I wondered what would happen on a marked 1/2" grid if  only gentle wiggles were quilted on those lines, in both directions, "sort of" trying to cross both lines at the marked intersections, but not obsessing about it.  What would that look like?

The design, above, was my first effort, done on a 1/2" marked grid (lines are removed after quilting) with #100 silk thread, in a very subtle variegated green.  I don't like the distraction of the thread, but that is just me.  Many love the little surprises when variegated is used.

I did the vertical lines first, then horizontal to avoid stretch. 

It would have been easier if this had been marked "on point" with lines at a 45-degree angle to the edges of the fabric.  There would be no distortion at all, no pushing or pulling of fabric as you approach an already-quilted line or intersection.  Just a suggestion, as it does work ok quilted on the grain if it works for your design choice, but be careful of distortion.

Below, my second try, on a 1" grid with matching silk thread in green, next to the first sample on the 1/2" grid.  This was actually a bit harder to keep the wiggles small and not revert to the arcs in my other designs like Diane-shiko or Apple core.  It was harder not to create large wiggles.

However, like any machine quilting motif, repetition brings competency.  After doing this for a half hour or so, I could do it rapidly with minimal goofs.

I decided the design looked just a bit like the old wool woven Houndstooth, which I have always loved.  This gives a structured look with TOTAL forgiveness in quilting! 

However, and you know what I am going to stress:  Stitches must be even and consistent, tension correct, thread color a good choice.  I honestly think the most distracting thing about poor machine quilting is uneven stitches, especially very large ones. 

If you have stitches that are too large for either the type of thread or the design, the "puff" of the batt will not happen.  You will lose it.  It will seep out under those giant stitches.

With stitches that are too large, you tend to "see" them, not the design.  Stitches look like big chicken tracks. 

Slow down your hands.  Speed up the machine just a bit.  For some mysterious reason the most common problem I see in my classes is a combo of fast hands but slow machine speed.  Work on this.  Learn to move those hands smoothly and evenly, and keep the speed of the machine going fast enough to create the best looking stitch length.

Make up a sample and try this!  Use something beautiful, a scrap of silk or sateen so you can see the quilting, and the final design.  Once you become more proficient, try it on a quilt in an area you would normally use a grid.  Let me know what you think!!  I believe it would look great over prints, just like the other grid-based designs do.

And have a wonderful Labor Day holiday everyone, hope you can relax and enjoy the end of summer.  Soon I'll be seeing many of you at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY in October.  Please email me with any questions about the class if you have them:  dianequilter@sbcglobal.net

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.

Oliver claiming his spot in the "other" sink while I brush my teeth....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oliver is Two!!

Today is very special, our Oliver is two years old!!  He has lived with us since he was 6 months old, a wild and woolly kitten who had been surrendered by his first owner to the Wisconsin Humane Society.  He is now a somewhat wild but totally wonderful cat, settled into ruling the house and us as well. 

He woke up this a.m. purring, happy, scampering about, knowing it was "his special day."  He especially liked the birthday singing, and the cake is fun to investigate and watch us eat (ridiculously yummy).  We dared not light the candle.

What a blessing a pet is.  We were reluctant at retirement time to take on a new young cat, but oh we are so happy we did.  He makes each day brighter, and happier, and more fun.  If we are bored, we say "where is Oliver?"  "What is he up to?" and he will stroll in and do something cute.  He helps us get through the bad times, and makes good times that much better.

I think he knows now we are his forever people.

Give your pet companion an extra hug today, or adopt one at your shelter who needs a loving home.  They give us so much in return.

Oliver posing as statuary on a very tall chest of drawers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Phat Quarters Classes

Home from a wonderful trip to a charming town, Galena, IL, and a most welcoming shop, Phat Quarters!  The shop, above, suffered severe flood damage right before our scheduled event, but fast work, Jane and her intrepid staff managed to salvage inventory and move to a new location right on the busy Main St. in time to host our event. 

Classes were held in the new front room of the shop, with big windows and plenty of room.  Now that we have left, they can proceed to setting things up and arranging inventory, decorating, etc.  They were flying by the seats of their pants, with an old cash register, no computers, but none of us complained at all. 

We had two days of great classes, fun, excitement, and success!  The charming shops and restaurants were all on the same street, and in the beautiful summer days there we took advantage of it all.

Feathers were amazing, stitches improved, students were smiling.  I thank everyone in class and especially the staff for making this happen.  If you are in Galena, stop by their new place and see what's going on.  Fabric not damaged is on killer sale, great bargains to be found.  And yes, they have Berninas!

I stayed in a hotel at the outer part of town and it had the most perfect carpet that included scrolls, feathers, leaves, and spirals, and of course the ubiquitous tendrils, below.   Perfect to set the stage for class as I unpacked and regrouped before my lecture the first night, with vintage 35 mm slides.

I arrived home Wed. night thinking I just might have time to bid on my AAQI quilt online and own it myself, but by the time I got to it the auction was over.  Thank you all for your bids and support, and congrats to the final bidder who will receive this quilt.  I think it is one of my favorites, and I hope it will be enjoyed for a long time.

"Mourning Too Soon"

Teaching with talented quilters gave me many ideas and inspiration, and now I hope I can find some time to work on a few long delayed projects. 

Oliver of course scampered his little heart out when I arrived home, then settled down for unpacking and sniffing everything from foreign lands, well, IL at least, and purred in contentment as we rested and relaxed. 

Monday he will be two years old, and we must plan a party.  He is still a Vegan, although he has been licking the remains from melted frozen custard in my dish, his first real people food, definitely on the path to becoming a bona fide Cheesehead.  He is a cautious boy.  He much prefers corn husks, raw green beans, and any veggie. 

Thanks again to my Galena students; it was such a pleasure getting to know you in class.  Don't let too much time go by before you quilt some of the techniques at home.  Repetition is the key.

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.