Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stay-cation in the Studio, Day 3

As predicted, the hubs and I spent a lovely day together yesterday--library, sushi, pedis--and not a stitch was made. (That was hard on me!) Today I was back in the Bottoms Up! Studio, not quite as focused as I was on Monday. Every time I think I'm organized, there's something I need that I can't find. I just purchased some fusible batting tape at the quilt show I attended earlier this month, and I couldn't find it. It finally turned up and I used it to piece together several scraps of Warm & White to use on a practice quilt.

I still consider myself a novice longarm quilter. I have been using my longarm this year more than in any of the almost 7 years I've owned it, and finally feel comfortable with it. I still lack certain longarm skills, such as Feathers. Ah, feathers--the go-to answer for most quilts when nothing else inspires. I have issues trying to quilt feathers. My oldest used to say, "Mom, you are SO left-brain." Yes, I am--and I try to let go and let things flow, but feathers continue to stump me.

Sharon Schamber came to our shop shortly after we purchased the longarm. I watched her quilt feathers--talk about lovely. I would try and try (and practice on paper--LOTS). Katrina was over one evening a while back and I told her how much I wanted to do feathers and that I especially wanted to quilt them on my latest Blooming Nine Patch. After seeing how she drew them I thought, "That looks a lot easier." So today's project was practicing feathers--traditional, and chicken. Also, some practice on filler for some borders on a charity quilt I hope to complete this week.

The quilt I practiced on today is from the International Mystery Tour we promoted at the shop. It's been sitting in the pile waiting for borders and Katrina said, "No borders! Feathers!" I loaded it up and away I flew--I still have lots of practicing to do, but I did improve by the time I reached the last pass:

I realize the thread isn't the best choice, but this was also to test a new thread I had never used because it's going on the charity quilt (I don't like surprises when I'm longarming). After a few minor tension adjustments, it was smooth sailing. Granted, it's not the prettiest thing, but the quilt will be used for something in our home (like a throw for one of the dogs). 

I would like to give a shout-out to Nichole Webb Rivera--she's an outstanding longarm quilter and she's also now serving as a personal coach and mentor for other longarmers wanting to get into the business or improve their business. She has a new website and is GIVING AWAY several of her workshop/class handouts that are fabulous. I'm hoping to take a class with her next year. If you're looking to further your machine quilting skills, I highly recommend signing up for her newsletter.

Tomorrow the plan is to quilt the Barn Chicks quilt--I need to piece the backing and then we're ready to load. I hope I've practiced enough chicken feathers to do it justice. I'll show you parts of it, but can't show all of it until it's gifted in October.

And good grief, it's already Wednesday! 

Just keep quilting,

Monday, July 29, 2013

Stay-cation, Day 1

This week I'm on stay-cation, and my plan for most of the week is to quilt! I promised the hubs that we would spend at least one day together doing some fun stuff, but the bulk of the time will be spent in the Bottoms Up! Studio. 

Day 1 was spent finishing up Katie's Lasagna quilt--Katie is our daughter-in-law and she decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to make a quilt. My sister was hosting a craft weekend and she got caught up in the excitement of all the creativity, so Katie, Katrina and I set off to find the Memphis quilt shops and ended up at Klassy Katz in Bartlett. The Lasagna quilt (Atkinson Designs - Spring Cleaning) is probably the easiest quilt to make and I thought it would be a good gateway project for Katie. She picked out her fabrics (which, of course, I purchased--if she didn't like quilting I didn't want her to worry about the expense), and I showed her how to cut her pieces and operate my sewing machine, and she was off and running! At the end of the weekend, she asked me to keep the project at my house (she and her son lived nearby) and she would get over to finish it. 

She never came over to finish the quilt--they're young and they have things to do! They also moved to Memphis over a year ago. When we were at my sister's this month I asked her if she wanted me to finish it--and she said yes. She enjoyed the design and cutting (!), but the sewing part, not so much. I told her I would get the top finished, and she asked if she could quilt it on my longarm. Of course I said yes! So on Day 1 of Stay-cation, I completed her top:

I texted the photo to her and she's excited. She's going to figure out her quilting design and thread and will hopefully be here later in August to quilt it. Better pictures will be posted when it's quilted.

Oh, and Bin 3 -- it's now empty!

Day 2 will probably be our Date Day so I'm not anticipating getting much quilting done, but I'll try to squeeze some in--I want to get a lot done this week!

Happy quilting!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Love Entwined

I was trolling through the blogs the other day and saw something that piqued my interest - Love Entwined, an 18-month BOM from Esther Aliu at Esther's Blog

WOW. I am amazed at the amount of work Esther has invested in recreating the pattern and it's a beauty. I am considering diving in although I already have an applique project started--I haven't touched the Trick or Treat quilt in two months, but that has more to do with it being summer and quilting on the longarm instead of sitting in the living room in my recliner hand stitching. Maybe I could make Trick or Treat my to-go project and work on Love Entwined at home...I love this colorway:

Isn't this fabulous? Here's another lovely background:

I'm on stay-cation next week and I'm thinking about pulling fabrics for it. If I do it I'll let you know what fabric choices I make, but I'm sure I'll wait a while before I dive in. My biggest issue is background fabric--I'm on a fabric diet this year and it requires 8 yards for the background alone. I may splurge, but I could do a scrappy background. 

The patterns are FREE but you must join Esther's Yahoo group to get them. The first two patterns have been released and they appear to be very thorough. Esther is from across the big pond and sometimes the measurements are metric instead of imperial, but if you can use a calculator, you can figure it out.

Will you become wrapped up in Love Entwined? If I do, you'll see a badge on this blog in the near future!

Happy quilting,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A lovely day with the Girlfriends (and a show!)

I was reminded by one of the Girlfriends that Saturday was the quilt show hosted by the Hot Springs Area Quilt Guild. Hot Springs is 60 miles from where I live and it's a fun town to visit. AND it's been way too long since I've been to a quilt show--the last one I attended was the Houston show in 2010.

Cindy and LeiLani and I were at the show shortly after it opened and LeiLani won a great door prize--a basket with some quilting goodies. There were several nice quilts, but nothing that knocked me to my knees. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate ALL quilts, but I do like to see new, original ideas in shows. One of the best things about attending the show was seeing several old friends and customers from the shop and the quilt guild of which I used to be a member.

I had made the decision I would not buy fabric (unless I needed it for a specific project), but notions and thread were fair game. I was really interested in looking at this: 

This is the Big Look -- (the website is not very informative) you set your machine on the base (which is supposed to fit in any cabinet), and you can move the magnifying glass to any position on the bar for use as you sew:

The photo above doesn't truly depict the enlargement from the magnifier--it was fabulous. I was really tempted. Cindy and LeiLani each bought one. But I want to trick out my longarm with extra lighting and a magnifier and I have to wait a bit. They are $90, plus another $10 for the extra-large arm that goes over the newer, bigger sewing and embroidery machines. Cindy has a Bernina 820 so she needs the extra large arm--LeiLani bought it so she could move the magnifier to the left of her machine to do any hand work necessary while looking through it. I asked the rep if they made these for longarms--she said to send the dimensions and they'd give me a quote. The hubs thinks he can put one together, but I want him concentrating on the lighting for the moment. 

As far as notions go, I didn't see anything new--other than some rulers. I don't have a ruler fetish so I didn't bite. Not much was available in the way of thread; one shop had her King Tut available in the 500-yard spools, but I buy the 2,000 yard cones. I didn't peruse any books or patterns; I have enough and I'm in the middle of my destash!

But fabric...I think I mentioned the other day that I haven't bought an inch of fabric so far this year. There were some beautiful selections from one of my favorite vendors, Piece Keepers, but I walked on by. In fact, most of the booths had great repros, and I walked by those, too. This is what I ended up with:

Nothing prim here!!! And yes, it's all for a specific project I've had in my head for several months. I'm ready to tackle it, but you won't see it for quite a while -- I want it to be a surprise for someone and have to keep a lid on it, but as soon as I'm able, I'll show it. It also means that The Bin I emptied last week gets a new project in it...

After the show we had lunch at The Grindhouse - a yummy burger without the bun (for this gluten free girl) and fries fried in truffle oil - double yum! Came home and later went to dinner with our son Ross and his buddy Damon at the new Mellow Mushroom to try out their gluten free pizza. Another yummy meal!

A lovely day with a show, food and Girlfriends -- life is good. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Graduation Quilts

We had a wonderful time last weekend in Memphis with my sister and our kids. My sister and her neighbor put on an unbelievable fireworks display that rivaled the one we have here annually at the Pops on the River concert on Independence Day! The photos I took of them were not good and I won't waste your time with them. But prior to the fireworks show and as mentioned in my last post, we presented the kids with their graduation quilts. Warning: LOTS of photos ahead!

Ladies first--Kelsey graduated in 1999. I made the quilt in 2007 and it was the first one I quilted on my longarm, and you can tell! I don't have any close-ups of it to show you how wonky my quilting was on this one, because Kelsey and her family had to leave early. The pattern is "Just Can't Cut It" by All Washed Up Designs. I made it as a sample for the shop and used a fabric line from Clothworks that I can't remember the name of. This is a very easy quilt to make and can be easily whipped out in a weekend. 

Jack, our oldest, received his quilt the weekend before he graduated in 2000. I had entered the quilt in a show so it was actually finished on time. It is the "The Over Under Double Disconnected Woven Squares with Shading" pattern by Mary Ellen Hopkins, who just passed away this week (I loved Mary Ellen--she was full of life and hilarious). Another incredibly easy quilt, but you can't find the pattern anywhere. I had not seen his quilt in a very long time and I was surprised to see how little quilting I did on it--it was quilted on my domestic machine and I took designs from the different fabrics, digitized them in my embroidery software, hooped the quilt and stitched them out. Jack and I were talking about the lack of quilting and we decided it needed some hand quilting added to it. Don't know when that's going to happen, but it may be later in the year when it cools off. As a side note, some of the fabrics I used in the quilt had a little bit of metallic in them--which has now all washed off in the last 13 years.

Ross is next--and his quilt is my own design. After I completed Jack's quilt, I decided I was ready to spread my wings and create my own design. I worked for hours and hours and hours in Electric Quilt (version 4!) and after auditioning 100 (no exaggeration) layouts, finally settled on the one I thought would work. In 2001 I started collecting fabrics, and thinking I had plenty of time, started pre-cutting the pieces for paper piecing (72 paper pieced stars!). The sewing bee I was in at the time spent each member's birthday working on the project of the birthday girl's choice--so we worked on Ross' quilt for my birthday. Six of us paper pieced 22 star blocks and some of the checkerboard blocks that day--which left 50 stars for me to do. I didn't think I would ever get those stars done and said to myself many times, "What was I thinking?" Just tearing the paper off the stars took FOREVER--and I had help with that, too! 

The quilting was no less labor-intensive. I echo and outline quilted each star, and quilted a spiral in the center with radiating rays in each point of the star. The background was simply swirls. In the blank spaces of the borders, I quilted exaggerated stars and more swirls:

The checkerboard blocks have 25 1" finished squares each. 

I used leftover 1-1/2" blue and yellow strips to make the square to cut the bias binding. The back was a neat batik I found on sale:

I'm so glad this quilt is Finally Finished! And Bin 2 is now empty!

And we finish with David--his quilt is from the Cozy Steps pattern from the Cozy Quilt Shop, a part of their Strip Club we had promoted at the shop. I knew I couldn't undertake a project as complicated as Ross' quilt. When I made it I honestly wasn't sure if he would graduate from high school--he's incredibly smart, but he didn't think it was important to turn in assignments, etc. When I finished the top, I thought it was so ugly that I asked our store manager to make the quilt again in Christmas fabrics. When I found the one I made in the big bin three weeks ago, I thought I had hit the jackpot--then I opened it up and saw how small it was. No borders. And the fabric I had set aside for the borders just didn't sing to me. So I dove into my stash and found two border fabrics and put them on. Then I put the quilt into the longarm and had the wild and crazy idea to do grid work in the borders. 

Big grid work, my friends, is a two-man job on my longarm--someone has to be in the back to make the adjustments on the guide for each line you make (45 degree angles) from the front, and telling you when you're literally about to go off the grid! 

I did a fill-in design in the center section and the more I worked on it, the more I fell in love with it. It's true; quilting makes the quilt.

I love this quilt. David loved it, too--the next morning I went upstairs to tell him breakfast was ready and he was snuggled up underneath it--in July. Wish I had the camera with me at that moment. Here's the back where you can see the grid work in the borders and the fill-in design:

God Bless Katrina--I was rushing to get both quilts done and she stitched down David's binding for me. 

So that wraps up the graduation quilts, and gives us two more that are Finally Finished in 2013. I told my husband yesterday, "Wouldn't it be neat to give them a quilt every year during our July gathering instead of Christmas?" Just a thought...don't know if I can pull it off, but I have my thinking cap on and we'll see.

If you've made it this far through the post, thank you for indulging me. I'm so happy to have these completed, and I believe I have regained my quilting mojo--let's hope it stays for a good while.

I'm going back to studio organization and am purging a lot of books and patterns and just uploaded them last night to one of the quilting/sewing online flea markets. If you're interested in taking a look, see them in my Destash Patterns and Destash Books photo albums. I'm also heading to a quilt show on Saturday with the Girlfriends, and am hoping to be really good and not buy fabric--unless, of course, it's needed for one of the projects in my head. But notions and thread are fair game!

Have a wonderful weekend--and happy quilting!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another full circle and a little glimpse into the Story of Us

May is usually a happy month in our household--Mother's Day and my husband's birthday, and the end of the school year (the hubs is a school bus driver). But in the wee hours of the morning of his birthday in May, we received the news that the mother of our youngest sons, Ross and David, passed away. The kids are reeling from the shock and the hubs and I want to do everything we can to help them through this--she had been in poor health and my husband and I knew it wasn't a matter of if, but when; the kids still weren't prepared for it. She was 55. A couple of weeks following her passing, the kids gathered here with their mother's family to have a private gathering to remember her.

Fast forward to this past weekend. We had planned to celebrate our son Ross' birthday at my sister's home in Memphis in mid-June, but that turned out to be the weekend of Ross and David's mother's memorial service. We decided to postpone the birthday celebration until this past weekend. We wanted all of our kids to get together and relax, fish, and just generally bond with one another. I wanted to do something for the kids to help ease at least some of their grief.

Remember when I posted that I had started working again on the graduation quilts for my two youngest? Ross graduated in 2002; David in 2006. I just put the borders on Ross' quilt last year. David's quilt had gone MIA until I discovered it about three weeks ago while reorganizing the studio. Two weeks ago I loaded Ross' quilt into the longarm and spent over 20 hours quilting it. I put borders on David's quilt Saturday before last and spent about 15 hours quilting it. Kelsey, our stepdaughter, needed a quilt, too. 

I called Jack, our oldest, and asked him to bring his graduation quilt to the gathering. He's the only one of the kids that actually got his quilt on time. Ross and I have had a running joke for the last 11 years--Ross: "Is my quilt done yet?" Me: "I'm working on it!"

Saturday evening just before dinner, I gathered the kids and announced to the crowd about what a bad mommy I was for not getting all of their graduation quilts to them on time. Jack had his at the ready, and I presented Kelsey, Ross and David with theirs. The look of shock on their faces was priceless! 

But the best reward was when my boys squeezed the stuffing out of me after they saw their quilts.

From left to right: Jack, Kelsey, Ross and David
My heart is full. I pray the quilts give them comfort, and more importantly, that they always know when snuggling with them how very much they are loved.

I'll talk more about each of the quilts in future posts. We're home from our gathering, and the hubs asked me yesterday afternoon on the drive home, "What's next?" We'll see.

Happy quilting,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Feeling good.

I have slowly come to the realization that my tastes--quilting-wise--are changing. I have been quilting for 20 years, and since I selected the fabrics for that first blue and pink sampler quilt that was never completed, my tastes have been evolving. I began this blog stating that my primary love was the primitive look - I still love it and always will. I love reproduction fabrics and many friends can attest that the majority of my stash is made up of them. I'm sure I'll continue to buy them. But I'm in the process of surrendering to the bright side--and it comes as no surprise to me. I have been in love with saturated colors all of my life--when I was a knitter, Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Knitting was published and I thought, "That's what I want." I couldn't afford the lovely yarns Kaffe used for his knitting--I was stuck with the Coats & Clark acrylic stuff.

Fast forward to 1993 when I began quilting--and here's a timeline on the evolution of this quilter:

1993 - 1995: I want to learn how to quilt! Buy a book and fabric from Joann's. Cut out everything using cardboard templates and the good Gingher shears and piece by hand. Find the guild--get blown away with what other people do and learn about local quilt shops, quality fabric and rotary cutters! And you can use your sewing machine to quilt! Take classes from excellent teachers and mentors. Buy a top-of-the-line sewing machine with embroidery attachment. I WANT TO LEARN IT ALL AND DO IT ALL.

1996 - 1997: Quilting takes a back seat when I remarry my husband, renovate and sell a house, buy and move into another house, and take in my two stepsons to rear in addition to our son and have my mother along to boot. Spend the majority of evenings and weekends in my minivan carting the kids from one activity to another.

1998 - 2001: I absorb everything I can about quilting, I master Electric Quilt, I serve as a chat host in the AOL quilting community, take classes, and attend the shows in Houston four times and Paducah twice--and still, I WANT TO DO IT ALL. Mom passes away and 4 months later, 9/11. Start reflecting on what it is I really want to do because so far, in 8 years, I've only completed 5 quilts. Most of the fabric in my stash is either Christmas-oriented or has Christmas colors--the same colors that dominate our living room.

2003: Open up a quilt shop with friends. Teach classes, mentor customers, buy lots of fabric, have a ball. Manage to piece a couple of tops, but I'm so busy with shop paperwork in addition to working full-time away from the shop that there's no time to quilt.

2007: Purchase a longarm machine to use at the quilt shop. Never have time to use it.

2009-2010: Make the decision to close the brick and mortar shop and go exclusively online. Move the shop to our basement. Set up the longarm. Still no time to quilt. Middle son gets married; no time to make them a wedding quilt. End of 2010: Make the decision to close the shop. In my stash, the majority of the fabric is reproductions and muddy tones, but on a trip to California in the summer of 2010, I purchase only brights.

2011-2012: Purchase an Accuquilt Studio die cutter to help me with the thing I dislike the most about quilting--all that cutting. Manage to do some piecing and take on a large applique project. Take down the longarm to complete renovations; finally get it back up mid-2012. Family events take over as our empty nest days end with the revolving of our front door. Take a class with Mary Lou Weidman in Tulsa and get inspired by lots of bright fabrics. Don't purchase fabric again until December for a baby quilt. Spare time is spent making pajamas for all of the kids and their significant others for Christmas.

First half of 2013: Make the decision to make quilting a major focus of my life. Reorganize my studio and find a dozen tops that need to be quilted. Purge a plethora of books, patterns and fabric that I no longer want. Have not bought an inch of fabric so far this year. Complete two quilts as gifts, and finally tackle the quilting of two tops made to celebrate our two younger sons' graduations from high school in 2002 and 2006. FEELING GOOD ABOUT MY QUILTING. Working on the longarm with Ross' quilt and seeing the saturated colors come alive with the interplay of quilting thread gives me a feeling of completeness.

NOW: It has taken me 20 years to get to the place where I want to be with my quilting. The last 20 years have been cluttered with all the other things I had to do. While I'm still committed to finishing most of the projects that have been lying in wait in The Bins for several years, I'm ready to tackle projects that are in my head instead of someone else's design or pattern. My studio is reorganized and functional, and I am both stimulated and soothed the moment I step into it. It will always be a work in progress, but I'm happy to work with what I have now.

I no longer want to do it all, and it feels good.

I'll have an update on progress very soon.

Happy quilting,