July 3, 2015

Charity Challenge - July

Triple Treat
Welcome to the EHQ Charity Challenge!  I'm thrilled to have finished my first charity quilt, Triple Treat.

I didn't want a lot of value variation for this quilt, so I chose some of my dark blues and greens.  This quilt required a lot of 2 1/2" squares, so I reached out to my friend Brenda of Pink Castle Fabrics and she hooked me up with an Accuquilt.  Can I say how much faster this was!  The 2 1/2" die cuts 9 squares at once and up to six layers of fabric, so that is 54 squares in one pass!  Plus, I didn't need to press my whole piece of fabric and get it lined up on the grain so I could rotary cut it.  I'm a convert!

I quilted Triple Treat with an allover swirly design.  I'm still working on improving my free motion quilting, so it isn’t perfect by any means but turned out OK.  I finished the quilt with a scrappy binding.

For next month, I'll be making a quilt I'm calling Cobblestones (download pattern here). It has two blocks that alternate and finishes at 40" x 49" – a little bigger than the requested 36" x 48", but I think it will be OK.  Since I went with cool colors for June, I think I'll go with warm colors for July and use my reds and oranges.  I may have to use yardage for the background on this one – I'll have to see when I search through my neutrals what I can come up with.  I'm not sure if Accuquilt has dies the sizes I'll need, so I'll probably have to rotary cut this one.  Cobblestones doesn't have nearly as many pieces, so I think it will still be pretty fast.

If you are playing along with your own Charity Challenge, use #ehqcharitychallenge on social media (I'll mostly be using Instagram and Facebook) so we can all see your work too!

June 30, 2015

Thinking about quilts and art

My wonderful husband and I went on a day trip on Saturday to visit the Quilt National exhibit at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.  I don't spend much time in the world of art quilts, but I know that this is one of the most prestigious shows there is.  I have been once before - maybe in 2009.  The show runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day in odd numbered years.  You can learn more about it here.

I can't share any of the quilts with you as photography is not allowed.  As you might expect, there were quilts I loved and some that didn't do much for me.  However, the exhibit really got me thinking about quilts and art.

While I'm a firm believer that quilts are art, I don't think of the quilts I make as art nor think of myself as an artist.  I think of myself as someone who makes quilts and who strives to make beautiful quilts, but not necessarily works of art.

So, why not?  Since I primarily design patterns and teach, I don't create quilts to be sold as works of art.  Additionally, as a child, I had no discernible artistic ability.  I made lots of craft projects, but not art.  And, somewhere along the way, I began to think that art was something you did to communicate an important message.  Seeing all the amazing quilts at Quilt National reminded me that sometimes beauty is an important message and enough, all by itself, to make something a work of art.

So, will I start thinking of myself as an artist now?  No, I'm very happy being a quilt maker.  Maybe it is just a semantic distinction.  Do painters think of themselves as artists or painters?  If I ever start making quilts to sell as works of art, I'll have to revisit these thoughts and see if I feel differently.  If I do, you'll be the first to know!

How about you?  Are you an artist, a quilter, both? 

I have to end this post by saying, as interesting as these thoughts have been to me, the most important thing is that we make things that bring us joy - no matter what we call them or ourselves!

June 26, 2015

Water Wheel

Water Wheel
I had such a great time stitching this fun little quilt!  Even though the fabric has flowers, I'm calling it Water Wheel to reflect the motion of the block and the water inspired colors.

I used my Turnstile pattern and changed it a bit by using fewer fabrics and making the centers the same color as the background.  My original plan was to use the same four fabrics in each block, but a quick photo of the layout on my design wall showed me that the motion of the pattern was lost.  I cut a few more squares for the center block and rearranged the ones I had and am much happier with it!

I couldn't believe how quickly this top came together once the cutting was done and the layout decided.  First stitch to last took only three hours - and I am not a fast sewist.  It is also true that the quilt is only 41" square :)

The quilting took a bit more time.  I was tempted to do spiral quilting like I did on the original version.  It seemed perfect for the water idea, but I wanted to do something different.  You may recall that free motion quilting is not my strong suit, but I've become decent enough at doing an abstract leaf pattern.  I tried to make the leaves longer, as opposed to rounder, to reflect the look of actual tulip leaves.  It took me longer to quilt this baby than it did to piece it!

The back of the quilt
The quilting is pretty dense - I have a hard time with less dense free motion.  I think it is because I am focused on the small area around my hands, so my shapes stay fairly small, even when I try not to let them.

The fabric is from the Palm Springs collection by Michele D'Amore for Benartex and Robert Kaufman Kona Solids in White and Astral (binding).

All in all, I'm quite happy with this little quilt and am glad to have another sample for my class in Chattanooga.

I'm linking up with the fantastic crazymomquilt's Finish It Up Friday - something I haven't done for ages!

June 23, 2015

Past due...

I had a lot of fun teaching earlier this spring that I never got around to telling you about!  I was gone so much of May, time got away from me.

The last few days of April, I visited the Mid Michigan Quilt Guild in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  I did my "What do they mean by 'modern' quilting?" lecture on the Tuesday evening.  They were a wonderful group and had super-great snacks!  (If I ever resist a home made brownie in your presence, there may be something seriously wrong with me!)  The next day, I taught my Modern Mystery class.  I've blurred out the blocks because - mystery and all!  We missed a couple of quilters for the photo who had to leave a bit early.  Just about everyone got their blocks finished and the speedy sewists got their quilt top put together.  We had such a great time!

In addition to being a lovely group, they meet in a wonderful facility at the Mt. Pleasant Commission on Aging.  Quilts decorate the room and the Commission serves a wonderful hot meal every day for a very reasonable price.

Gathering for the Thurs eve lecture
A couple of weeks later, I went to Canada to be the "guest artist" at the Oxford Quilt Guild's Quilt Show, Pieces of Magic.  I gave my lecture to one group on Thursday evening and another on Saturday morning.  In addition, I taught my Hand Applique class both Friday and Saturday afternoons.  I spent Friday morning looking at the beautiful quilts in their lovely show!  There were lots of wonderful quilts from their guild challenges to traditional and contemporary beauties and a few modern ones as well.

While I was in the area, I had dinner with some members of the London (Canada) Modern Quilt Guild.  Kristyn of Melon Patch Quilts and I connected on Instagram when I announced I would be in her neck of the woods teaching.  Chantal, founder of the London MQG and owner of the wonderful quilt shop, Hyggeligt, and Sheila, another member, joined us as well.  We had such a fun time chatting quilting and enjoying good food - is there anything better?!

I don't have any teaching on my schedule in July and August, but I will have a booth at the Glass City Quilt Commission's quilt show on July 24 and 25.  I hope you'll stop by if you are in the area!

June 19, 2015

Thread thoughts...

I'm so glad I started my new hand appliqué 
project - I love to have something that I can stitch on that is ready to go!  I haven't made lots of progress yet, but that's OK.  This project is meant to be one of those that has no deadline - it will be finished when it is finished.

I always use 100 weight silk thread by YLI for my hand appliqué.  I love the way the silk thread just disappears into the fabric.  
The back of the project above

People often comment on how tiny and invisible my stitches are and my thread is a major factor in this result.  (Sorry this isn't a better picture - my camera does not like taking detail shots)

I was lucky enough to purchase this wonderful assortment of colors early in my quilting life and have used it a LOT.  It can be hard to find silk thread in quilt shops these days so I usually add to my collection at a bigger quilt show.  When I teach hand appliqué, I always bring my thread so my students can try it first, as it is not inexpensive at $5-7/spool.  Silk thread this fine does knot easily, but once most people see how it sinks into the fabric, this annoyance is worth it!

While I use YLI because I have it on hand, I'm sure there are lots of other threads that would work well too.  Like anything in quilting, just try a few to see what you like.  I think the two most important things are thread weight and color.  Mine is 100 weight compared to my normal 50 weight for machine piecing.  If you have difficulty finding 100 weight thread, try some of the finer 50 weights such as Aurifil.  The color of the thread must match the fabric you are appliquéing onto the background.  This is not the place to use an "all purpose" neutral.

I prefer to work with natural fibers, so a fine cotton thread would work too.  I have heard that some quilters are concerned that the silk thread is stronger than the cotton fabric and might damage it over the long term.  While I can't say whether this is true or not, I think it is unlikely to happen in the next 50 years, so I choose not to worry about it and continue using the product that gives me the results I like.

How about you - do you have a favorite thread for hand appliqué?

PS I know some machine quilters love to quilt with 100 weight thread too!

June 17, 2015

Fat Quarter Shop Birthday Bash!

Fat Quarter Shop is celebrating their 12th birthday!  Check out their shop for great deals daily at 10 am CST.

June 16, 2015

Dreaming of Water - again

My family knows that I often dream of spending time staring at beautiful water views.  This rarely happens in my life, but even thinking about looking at water makes me calmer.  I imagine this is why, time and again, my quilts include beautiful blues and aquas.

I love the intense, hand dyed colors of my original Turnstile quilt.  Those Marcia Derse fabrics are beautiful!  Yet, ever since I made that quilt, I've wanted to make another one in a fresher, brighter color scheme. Now seems like a good time since I'll be teaching this class at AQS in Chattanooga later this fall.  I thought I had a charm pack in my stash that would be perfect, but I couldn't find it. (...the danger and delight of too much fabric!)
As I was looking, I stumbled across this pretty Palm Springs line by Michele D'Amore for Benartex.  I picked it up during Quilt Market a while ago and it is just right for the watery feel I love.

I'm going to alter the pattern a bit and use the same color for the centers as for the background.  I think that will add to the airy feel.  I'm also going to use the same four fabrics for all the blocks instead of a charm pack as in the original quilt.  Altering patterns a bit like this is one of my favorite things about quilting - so many possibilities!

I am a little concerned that there will be too much white in my plan, but I'm going to dive in and see how it looks.  All the cutting is done - now to the fun sewing!

Is there a place or view you dream of time and again?