It was sunny finally, so I found an old class sample piece where I had done some demo quilting. This quilting is always iffy, in that I usually am using someone else's machine, am sitting at a bad height so my eyes can't focus correctly, maybe the wrong color of thread, and everything on the machine is a bit different to me.
I do understand when you take classes that this happens to all of you too! I try and reassure students that it will indeed be better at home, so I tried that theory myself to warm up the machine and see if my old hands and eyes could still do this.
The piece I unearthed was done on some lovely green cotton fabric with bright gold thread, perhaps bright yellow, hard to tell with fine thread after the quilting is done what color it actually was on the spool. Fine silk thread takes on a new shade once the quilting is done and it is affected by the color of the fabric. Good to know, good to use this info when you choose thread color.
I threaded up some shimmery chartreuse #100 YLI silk thread in my trusty Bernina and decided to echo the awkward feather plume I had done as a demo. The tension was off on the previously quilted feather, the stitches were a bit large, the feather was stilted and boring. It was a demo. But, for a warm-up for me, it was fine.
Echo quilting is my favorite background, so I set to it, found that after a few stitches it all came back just fine. That muscle memory that is forged while quilting will still be there with the gentle nudge of practicing. If you cannot do any machine quilting for long periods of time, usually a brief warm-up while really trying to do well will bring it all back.
Don't practice and stitch with no care; always try to do your best.
Because there is no stress involved as with this feather project (it was already not great, how could I make it worse?) you will be relaxed, and that is the key ingredient to good free motion work. As soon as you tense up and think "I am going to ruin this quilt" then you WILL quilt below your skill level. Stop, regroup, relax, let it go. If it takes doing some warm-up quilting or practicing to feel confident, do it. It all adds to the greater good of making you a better quilter.
Here is the finished work - it turned out great. I could still quilt, oh happy day. I quilted for quite awhile and it was so good to hear the sound of the machine and feel so relaxed again. Oliver napped in the chair by me on an old quilt, content to see me working again in his favorite room, the forbidden room.....
The echo quilting is about 1/8" apart; the feathers are giant!
I do like to vary the shades of thread as I quilt. I don't use variegated threads often, although they are beautiful and do magic tricks on your quilt when you need that. Instead, I prefer to stop and switch out the thread color as I choose. This gives you more control in the finished "look" and is kind of fun as well. It gives you that moment to stop, step back, assess what you've done and decide what's next, a bit like tasting the soup as it is simmering to check the seasonings.
Below, a detail from my quilt "Shadows of Umbria," now part of the collection at the National Quilt Museum. The freehand feathers create movement in this very structured design, giving it softness and grace. I changed out the thread colors frequently to lighten the background, deepen the feathers. The urn was not freehand; I drew it and traced it to the quilt.
I also used several dye lots of the hand dyed Cherrywood sueded cotton for the background areas to take away from the flatness of only one shade for the entire background. This created more dimension and oddity to the quilt, looked less modern and less planned out. This fabric quilts up so beautifully - the stitches marry well with it and mistakes are not as visible, tension is easy to get right. I pre-wash it and press with a touch of starch before using it for piecing.
I've added a link to my blog list for Why Quilts Matter: Politics, Art & History, the nine-part documentary produced by The Kentucky Quilt Project: www.whyquiltsmatter.org. The series has aired on 200+ PBS stations, and is also available on DVD.
They offer a special discount of 40% on orders of four or more DVDs to quilt guilds: http://www.whyquiltsmatter.org/welcome/quilt-guild-discount-offer-for-the-documentary-why-quilts-matter-history-art-politics/. They have a weekly blog that currently publishes a new post every Monday: http://www.whyquiltsmatter.org/welcome/blog/.
They have a guest post every month by collector and blogger, Bill Volckening (Wonkyworld) as well. Recent post topics have included a virtual quilt show of holiday-related quilts; quilts made by quilters for comfort and healing (featuring the Hurricane Sandy Quilts & Blanket Drive, the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, and the Quilts of Valor Foundation); wool quilts; a report from Houston 2012; and various noteworthy exhibits (e.g., Civil War quilts at the New England Quilt Museum, the High Fiber fundraiser at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, and an exhibit of politically themed quilts from the American Folk Art Museum at the Boca Raton Museum of Art).
Profits from sales of the DVD, Discussion Guide, and DVD/Guide package are returned to The Kentucky Quilt Project to fund new educational resources for quilters and quilt scholars. So check it out!
If you are not working on quilting but doing other things, take some time to sit at your machine and do a little practice and reinforcement. Try a thread color you normally would not choose, do a new design until it becomes easy. Save it and refer to it for your next project. Sometimes I tack these up on the wall or I forget all about them.
Below, my homemade pizza we had for Christmas dinner, yummy, spinach and tomatoes were our nod to red and green for the holiday.
Keep quilting; your work gets better every time you quilt!
Oh, it is good to know that you're back at your machine and doing what you so love. And that we get to see the fruit of your labors - always an inspiration!
Love your quilting Diane....I am getting much more comfortable with mine; since last year's challenge. But no where near you...lol. That pizza looks delicious
You are one of my great examples in quilting! And it's so good to see you back behind the machine, doing what you love. I'm still in learning mode, reading and practicing your work. The next quilt I will try it for 'real' on a quilt.
That pizza looks soooo yummy!
Give Oliver a big hug from me and untill next time.
(if you want to make the circled c for copyright © you have to press control - alt - c at once. Just a tip...)
Diane!!! So thrilled to see you, again! Your stitching is truly inspiring. Your suggestions for a "warm up" time is spot on for sure. I can't start without such (learned some the 'hard' way). Hug Oliver for me, please......hugs and blessings, Doreen
Diane, so glad you're "back in the saddle" and enjoying it!! I love the way you write about the process-it is "specifically inspirational" if that phrase makes sense. I giggle over the Christmas pizza-we too have a VERY non-traditional Christmas dinner. Be well.
So glad to hear you are quilting again. I began machine quilting simply because of your quilts. I have your website in my bookmarks and would look at your quilts for inspiration. Your work is beyond what I can ever hope to achieve, but I can keep on trying. Thanks so much.
What a great post. Love your FMQ. I still need more practice at echo quilting. I can do it,but it does not look as lovely as yours. And, I've actually had to rip it out when I did it around some feathers. "My" version just didn't create beauty. One day I'll get there.
Love all the insights you shared, including your yummy Christmas pizza.
Spring is coming your way, very soon! Hang in their.
Thanks for your comments everyone! I have to say it is good to be quilting again. I can't do it for long periods as my sore right hand/thumb will get bad again, but love what I can do. The pizza was very yummy indeed - my crust was crispy on the outside and so tender and delicious inside.
Norma, thank you so much for your comment - I am so pleased that my work has given others inpspiration and incentive to make beautiful quilts.
SewCalGal, echo quilting is difficult, truly. I found an example of some of my very first and will try and get a photo soon. It was all over the place but still looked ok because my stitches were nice and even and there were many rows of echoing. If there is only one row every single mistake stands out way too much.
We had snow again, and more on the way. It is so dark and gloomy here I cannot find my way to the sewing machine......
Oliver has found great happiness in an old empty office store box from #10 envelopes on the floor by the front door for good bird watching. He fills it completely and looks like a rectangular cat with a head. We call him "Mr. 10" or Prime Minister (after #10 Downing St., I know, it's a stretch).
And last night we stopped in the snowstorm and got him beautiful green fresh wheat grass, oh happy day.
Bianca, thanks for the tip on copyright. However, for some reason in my photo program (Corel) it doesn't work. I have to go into Word, copy the symbol and paste it and sometimes that doesn't work, so the simple "C" will have to suffice. These photos get reproduced in zillions of places so I do like to have my name on my original work. But I will keep it in mind for other applications as a fast way to do it.
Glad to hear you are quilting again! I agree with you on trying to quilt in a classroom situation. I've even taught a class using a new Bernina so I didn't have to transport my older machine. It's actually easier to just bring my machine to do demonstrations--after-all it's just an older Bernina :)
Diane, so happy to hear that you are quilting! And I want to say again I can never thank you enough for inspiring me to quilt my best every time I quilt!! THANK YOU, and thank you.
Care to share that pizza recipe? It looks absolutely delish!
Kay, it's really not whether the machine is old, new, etc., but if it is "well trained" by YOU for machine quilting! Then it responds perfectly.....
Yes, it's easier to bring your own; saves time and stress in the long run. I took mine to multi-day classes where I could drive, and otherwise became very good at learning different machines, very fast.
I posted about finding your apple core quilting motif at the least expected place: http://ivoryspring.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/thread-talk-from-my-sewing-machine-47/
Thought you might enjoy the humor in it! :)
Hi Ivory Spring - thanks for the photo on your blog, it is fantastic! To see "Apple Core" as a footprint in the snow, terrific. This is an age-old classic design, and I just adapted it for machine quilting so the entire stencil would not have to be traced, just a grid. I find it easier for most students to quilt without trying to stay on a marked line, so this technique works great.
Your comment for some reason would not post, so I copied it here, and everyone can click on your blog on my list and find it. Thanks again, wonderful to see a quilt detective in action. :-)
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