Monday, March 31, 2014

What I Learned While Making Fractured Landscape

About a year and a half ago I took a KVQG sponsored workshop from Joe the Quilter - Joe Cunningham.  Although Joe's experience and training is in traditional quilting, he has branched out into sort of abstract and modern quilting. Check out some of his work here.

The Workshop we did was "Rock the Block, block style". Piecing the blocks was a breeze because there really was no specific pattern - it was just slice and add or slice and insert. 

Deciding where to put the blocks was another deal altogether. Joe suggested we lay them out so that the color flowed from one area to another. When I did that with my blocks, I did get the feeling of a landscape with golden flowers, greenery and sky. But it was a landscape as seen through fractured glass - hence the name of the quilt - Fractured Landscape.

Adding the borders was another interesting step. I didn't want it to look "bordered" so I added borders in a way that continued the colors and lines of the design. 

Next step - quilting. I have been paying more attention to how quilts are quilted and had seen this  "follow the lines swirls" somewhere - I'm sorry I can't remember who inspired me - maybe several folks. And now that I started quilting it this way, I see this all the time - most recently on one of Jacquie Gering's quilts (see the post on her quilt Shattered Remix). If Jacquie is doing it I'm in really good company! 

I have never spent so much time looking at my walking foot before. This quilting design is simple, but it takes a lot of time. I can use all the different "toes" on my walking foot as guidelines. I'm also really thankful for the needle stop down feature on my machine. I could stop with the needle down every time I needed to pivot.

 My new (used) Bernina 440 has a free hands system that enables me to lift the presser foot with my knee. It works better if I used my left foot on the gas (foot control) and my right on the lift. It felt a little weird at first, but I am getting used to it.

I also used my Machingers gloves, a textured finger glove, to help me exert more control over the quilt sandwich. These gloves are especially useful when free-motion quilting.

Since the quilt design had irregular shapes in 3 colors, I decided to quilt the shapes separately, and then as some colors bordered each other I decided to try combining some of the shapes. It was enjoyable to see how the shapes emerged with the quilting.

So then I was approaching my non-bordering borders and didn't to quilt them like traditional borders. After consulting with my quilting sister Kathy at the retreat and seeing what she did on an angle quilt, I decided to continue to quilt the shapes into the border area. I marked the outlines, making sure that I varied the size and contour of my shapes.

I am finishing up this wall hanging just in time for the KVQG annual quilt show (5-6 April at Crown Toyota in Lawrence). Now I have to figure out how to bind it. I'm having the same dilemma I had regarding the borders. Should I bind as normal? Match the binding color to the border color? Face? Or use some other technique? I'll show you what I ended up with in my post about the quilt show.
What do you learn by taking workshops?
Always curious,

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Joy of Retreats #2 - Fellow Quilters and Stitchers

Indeed I made a lot of progress on several BOM projects at the Stitch-On Retreat! It was good sewing and great food, but the best part was spending time with and being inspired by my awesome stitching sisters!
Most of us were piecing or quilting, but some were also doing counted cross stitch or knitting (both passions of mine). On Sunday before packing up we had a show and tell and I was amazed by the beautiful work! Anne Marie finished a cross stitch snowman sampler, several ladies showed their T-shirt quilts, and Laura and Leslie from Stitch-On were working on shop samples- one of them using this great KU fabric (KU went on to loose later that day ;-( ). Everyone had really worked hard and made lots of progress.

Several people really inspired me. Lisa  had just finished binding this wonderful star quilt.  I really like the quilting on it.

Kathy and Tracy, a mother-daughter duo a few tables from where I was sitting, were doing modern quilts with colors I really love. Tracy did this cute paper pieced staggered flying geese baby quilt.  Kathy was working on a bright green quilt from Modern Quilting magazine (on the right in this pic).

 I absolutely love the quilting on it.  I always feel so inspired when I see what my quilting sisters have created. I took several pictures of patterns, color schemes, and fabric lines so that I could remember details later. I added many new friends to my Facebook list so we can keep in touch.

I am so looking forward to my next retreat in September. I'm curious - Do you go on quilting retreats?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Joy of Retreats #1 - Catching up on projects

I just got back from a terrific retreat - 4 glorious days (2 full, 2 half) of sewing, visiting, learning, and sharing. I am so jazzed about what I accomplished as well as all the inspiration I got from my fellow retreat goers.
Stitch-On Needlework Shop sponsors 3 retreats a year and I have worked my way up to be on the permanent list for all three. These are so popular that there are already 26 people on the wait list for September!
This time I decided to focus on my block of the month projects. As I have already confessed, I am a BOM addict. And logically when one signs up for so many BOMs one gets behind almost immediately. I brought along 6 BOM projects to catch up on. I am also a chronic list maker.  So here is my to-do list.

I made some pretty good progress. I finished 
~ 2 more blocks on the Buck a Block Half Square Triangle quilt
~ 2 sets of blocks on Toes in the Sand
~ Block A on Ato Z
 ~ Zylophone and Metrolopolis minis on the Modern Patchwork Sampler quilt, and
 ~ Month 2 on Sedona Star.      Whew!

I sewed and sewed until my back ached. A massage today took care of that little side effect! I love having dedicated time and space to create. I made myself a very functional little nest and got lots accomplished.

In a future post I'll share the best part of the retreat - my fellow quilters and stitchers! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Creating with Friends - Our Round Robin Challenge

Last week, the bi-monthly gathering of my small quilt group was at my new home.  We had such fun! We got to enjoy my new quilting studio as well as each others' company.

This group of women have been meeting for years, but I just joined them a couple of years ago. They have been friends, creative partners, shopping buddies, teachers, and inspiration. I eagerly look forward to our get-togethers.

Last year, at one of our gatherings, we talked about the various challenges and experiences we wanted to try. Only one of us had participated in a round robin, so we decided we should have a go.

Our "rules":
1. There really are no rules.
2. We each make a block that serves as the inspiration and foundation for the quilt.  We could include any fabric we wanted and then the subsequent quilters could add fabric.
3. We would give ourselves a pen name and a back story.
4. We won't see the progress on our own block until its done.

What an experience! I felt like there was even more pressure to do a good job when you're working on another quilter's quilt. Each block was so different and each addition to it added so much character. We did a variety of piecing, applique, and embellishments. The styles were traditional, fun and funky, and improvisational.

I started with an applique block from a workshop by Kathy Delaney. I knew I would not make the remaining blocks but I wanted to do something with this one, so I thought it would be a good beginning for the round robin.

After six rounds, here is what my block looked like.

I am getting ready to quilt it and will share pics when I get it done. 

I'm curious, what are your experiences with Round Robins? Post a comment and let me know.
Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Inspiration From the Galapagos - Birds

The Galapagos really was the trip of a lifetime.  The ship was terrific, the crew and fellow passengers were amiable and interesting, but really the best part was the wildlife. The guides were so knowledgeable about all the different species and their place and contribution to the development of our knowledge about evolution. The isolation of the islands (600 miles from Ecuador) combined with the respect and protection shown by humans to the animals has resulted in a place where the animals have little fear and allow us to approach them. We got to get very close and get some good shots. Too bad my camera malfunctioned half way through the trip and I had to use my cell phone for the rest of the trip. I have hundreds of great pics still stuck in my camera - waiting for me to take it to be repaired. Thanks to anonymous photographers for the pics below. I'll replace them with ones I took after my camera gets fixed. I hope I am not violating any copyrights.

After experiencing all these wonderful animals, my mind immediately went to a sampler quilt. Maybe a 4 by 4 with a block for each animal, or a "scene" with all the animals and birds in their habitat. I could either print out my pics on fabric, using the special printer fabric, or convert them to applique and use batiks and thread painting. I'm not sure yet, but I do know that I'm going to include 16 animals, birds, and reptiles.
Lets start with the birds. 
Darwin Finches - tiny but important to the scientific community!

The booby brothers - blue-footed, red-footed, and nazca boobies. They all had the most unusual expression on their little birdy faces.

We saw a group of Galapagos flamingos in a lagoon doing a very coordinated dance. No sign of the choreographer or director.

The frigate bird (red throat) and albatross.  The albatrosses do an adorable mating dance - clicking their bills together.

We saw a lot of swallow tail gulls sitting on eggs.

And finally the Galapagos penguin. It's small compared to other penguins and absolutely too cute.

Whether they were sitting on eggs, flying, swimming, dancing, mating, fishing, or napping, the birds were interesting and beautiful. Perfect subjects for a quilt!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Inspired by the Galapagos

I'm always on the lookout for shapes, textures, colors, ideas, and objects that provide inspiration for some future quilt. I hit the inspiration jackpot on our recent trip to the Galapagos. By the time I got home I had ideas for 4 new quilts in my inspiration noteboook.

One of the most exciting adventures we had in the Galapagos was a hike over lava fields at Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island. The eruption occurred sometime in the 1890's - just a short time ago in geological time.  The lava was still "fresh" - it had not eroded very much.  Here is a video made at the same field I visited and with the same guide and tour company - just a few years earlier!

I was amazed by all the different textures. There were ropes, popped bubbles of varying sizes, and some that looked like a particular chocolate frosting I make. My first thought on seeing the lava fields was that this would make a great quilt!
I am envisioning a quadritych (OK I had to look that up on google), each one with a different black or grey batik. I'm not sure that I will even piece or applique anything - I think what would be stunning is a whole cloth quilt with the quilting as the star. Each of the four pieces would be quilted and thread painted to look like a different kind of lava - a rope, some bubbles, and other textures that I don't have words for yet. 
I'll have to really practice my free-motion quilting to get them to look like the lava, but it will be fun. 

If you're curious about the Galapagos, I can highly recommend the National Geographic tour. It was a trip of a lifetime! More inspiration to come.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sewing While Unpacking

We've been in our new house for 6 weeks now and we're starting to get settled in. I'm working everyday on some part of the house, but it's more fun to work and play in my studio. I'm making a lot of progress with setting up the new space, but I've still got projects that I want to work on. 
Our guild quilt show is next month and I've taken a couple of classes that have homework (!!!!) so I still have to be productive in the chaos. 
I set up my old sewing table (now my desk and beading table) for my Bernina 830 and embroidery module. I've been working on the Tree of Life, a gorgeous embroidered wall hanging of a colorful tree with flowers, critters, swirls and leaves that you can put family members' names on. Teacher Jane is a taskmaster (grin) and has assigned homework to be done before the next class in March.  

I usually keep projects contained in plastic totes, but with all the chaos reigning downstairs, its especially important for me to keep everything together. I don't have a place for things yet and I'm afraid I won't be able to find stuff. So I have all my Tree of Life stuff in a portable tote, including the thread.

This design requires that motifs stitched in one block are continued in another block, so it's very important to make good notes about the thread colors so that I can carry the thread over to the adjacent block. My solution - copy the picture of the block and make notes including color numbers.

I now have one row done and need to finish sewing the row together. Jane's sample was made with a white linen-look background fabric, a classmate is using black and I am using a light blue. I'm curious to see how they look on the different background colors.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Studio Step 2 - Sewing Table

I made a wishlist for my new sewing table. I want:
1. Enough space to use my BR 830 with the embroidery module and my BR 440 at the same time.
2. Surrounds for each machine so that I have a smooth, even surface for sewing.
3. Space to support a large quilt while I'm quilting.
4. Some storage space for hoops, needles, bobbins, etc.
5. A table and chair that are the right height for me.
6. Something pretty!

The shop where I work, Mea Bernina, is a dealer for Koala cabinets and tables. We have several in the shop and they are gorgeous! They really fit the bill for everything on my wishlist. There are so many options, that I've spent several weeks going over all the possibilities and I am narrowing in on the table for me.

I thought about getting 2 tables so that I can work on the embroidery machine and sewing machine at the same time. But due to both space and money issues, I've decided against 2 tables. Koala has a large table with 2 lifts. So, the first decision is made - the Koala Dual Mate will hold both machines.

Second item on my list -  I can order a surround to fit each of my machines.

Item #3 - space. The Dual Mate has both left and right side extensions with tops that provide extra space - up to a total of 123 inches! But I can also get an outback extension that nearly doubles the workspace. This outback extension can be raised or lowered depending on what I'm working on and what else I have going on in my studio.

Item #4 - storage. I can order optional shelves that go under both the back and side extensions. I thought about waiting and ordering the shelves later, but I'll save shipping costs if I have them delivered with the main table.

Wishlist item #5 - height. Koala cabinets come in a standard size but each can be ordered either 3 or 6 inches higher. The chairs are very comfortable and really support my back. I haven't had any lower back or shoulder pain while sewing on the tables at the shop. I've sewn on both the 29 inch and 32 inch tables and both feel pretty good. I may need a lift for the foot pedal with the higher table and the extra height costs extra so I think I'll go with the standard 29 inch height. 

Item #6 - these tables are gorgeous! I could go either with the white or the golden teak (third from right in the pic). Hubby's choice is the teak. I'm still thinking about this one. My bookshelves and beading table/cubes are white and my cutting table in progress is white. I have some antique pieces that are oak and sort of golden cherry that actually are really close to the golden teak. Which would you choose?

So, I'm almost at a final decision. Here is what I imagine it will look like. I still need to decide on color. I plan on ordering my very own Koala table next week.  It will be delivered to my home and placed right in my studio. No assembly required!

If you're curious about Koala, check 'em out.
I can hardly wait!

Monday, March 3, 2014

New Studio - Step 1 - Bookcases

The first step in outfitting my new studio was to get some bookshelves. After doing some surfing, I finally settled on the Hemnes line from IKEA. They had other models I liked, but I had to find something to fit under the duct-work. In my old studio I had two bookcases that were able to hold most of my quilting, knitting and weaving books. I wanted to add some storage and display space for fabric. I also wanted the fabric protected from dust so I thought a cabinet with glass doors would be just the thing.

I ordered 2 Hemnes regular bookcases and 1 with glass doors.   They arrived last week and I spent an hour putting each one together. The directions (pictures only) were pretty good, but after assembling 3 bookcases, my hand and arm are really sore - lots of screws and no power drill/screwdriver. 
As soon as I get them bolted to the wall (the one with doors is a bit top heavy), I'll unpack my books and start filling the middle one up with beautiful fabric.
After the snow melts I'm going to put my old mismatched bookcases out on the street for someone to take and give them a good home.

On to Step 2 - Koala sewing table!
Happy Sewing!