Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Long Overdue Update

I have periodically visited this blog and reminisced about the quilting business I once had. It still floors me to look back and recognize that there have been so many changes! Like many of you with Covid-19 keeping us all at home, I've been lurking around the internet in my old familiar hangouts.

I made a very long and rambling video about a year ago and gave a brief update on where I've been. The truth then was that I wandered a bit because I wasn't really sure where all of this was going, but now I'm a little more certain.

Over the past four years I have still been doing mom things with my four children. I have teenagers which has been the most difficult and challenging experience as a parent. I cut back from full time work to part time to go to college because I recognized pretty early on that it was necessary to get a degree to support myself long term and such a large family. I earned a modest income with quilting, but the resources to continue as I had were no longer available to me, and so I had to make some tough decisions. I loved what I had built with quilting, so it was extremely sad for me to see it go. I took a job by pure chance as a legal assistant and learned immensely during my time there. The experience combined with friendships and connections made in that role inspired me to pursue law school.

Returning to school has been difficult but more rewarding than I could have imagined. My experience has been unique as a mother and nontraditional student. I balanced my children's lives, my own work life and school life, the loss of my mother in the midst of the most difficult time in my life, and now navigate the unique experience of finishing my degree during a pandemic. I was active in school and took on leadership roles in many student organizations and tried to volunteer in my community whenever time allowed. I learned so much about the world - and that there is so much more to it than what I previously understood. It was not always graceful or pretty or perfect. I lost sleep and was at times grouchy and short tempered. The dishes often piled up, dinners frequently consisted of anything quick and microwaveable, and there was definitely not time to be the kind of mother, daughter, friend, or partner that I wanted to be. As one who goes through significant life changes does - I grew and evolved- and hopefully for the better.

So here I am exactly two weeks from being finished with a Bachelor of Arts in English! I have been accepted to a number of law schools and have chosen The University of Akron's Law School to complete my legal education. My oldest is graduating high school and headed to college this fall. My youngest will be entering kindergarten. I made it through with the support of new friends, the faculty and professors at the college, coworkers, my small but loving family, and old friends who have supported me since grade school. Just when you think the world is hard and cold and will eat you up and spit you out - incredible people show up and remind you that the world is also full of compassion, love, and those with a desire to make it a better place.

Very little sewing has occurred but I have not abandoned it entirely. I have been creating art, mostly as a way to relax and curb the anxiety of all the uncertainty we are experiencing, and to express the hardships and joys that I've experienced through the years. 

I have so very much enjoyed blogging about my sewing endeavors and creating friendships along the way. Some of you still follow me on Facebook and have been my cheerleaders through all of this - and I am so grateful for you! 

While it looks like a sewing business is no longer in my immediate future, I am still drawn to sewing and artwork and creating. My competitive nature might even inspire me to enter a few competitions and learn new techniques. 

I have thrown around the idea of creating a new blog or revamping this one. For now, I will leave it as it is. I will not be taking in quilts again, and any projects will likely be small. I have loved sewing and quilting, but law school is a long term commitment and so my energy is going to be focused on that for the time being. In the meantime, I will try to periodically drop in and catch up.

Until the next update - take care!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Progress on the Unnamed Whole Cloth Quilt

One more week until school resumes. I have been working diligently in my spare hours in an attempt to establish some semblance of organization so that I have a permanent creative space. Things are coming along. The long arm is set up - with two of the bars loaded onto the frame incorrectly so, with help, I hope to swap them around and get my machine up and running this week. I wonder if I will remember how to load a quilt?

Many years of memories had been tucked away in boxes and piled around my long arm. Though I turned it on a few times, and more than once attempted to sew, all of those feelings were not quite ready to be sorted through. I have finally begun that process, and purging things I no longer need to hang onto. I suppose this is one of those spring time rituals many of us share. The daylight lingers a little longer in the evenings, Christmas is finally over, and it feels as though it is time to start anew.

More work on my unnamed whole cloth. Above you can see the full view. It is not very big, a wall hanging size. I used a fat Moda solid fat quarter on the top in a minty green. Full disclosure, I did use a filter to help highlight some of the detail. When finished, I will take photographs in natural lighting to share with you the truest representation of this piece.

This quilt is entirely free hand, no marking, just play. I have such an appreciation for well planned designs that pay special attention to size, shape, consistency, and balance. Show pieces have always been my passion and fascination; the ultimate goal to aspire to. This quilt, however, follows no rules. The complexity in its quilting is a bit paradoxical to its free form nature.

The plan to finish is really no plan at all. I love fancy schmancy things and fancy schmancy quilts and so I think this calls for beads and some painting. Many faces twist and turn with a puzzled look as I explain that I will paint my quilt. I see it as a canvas waiting for emotion to be applied. The painting will add shading and dimension and mood - and with hope add to the overall feeling of  the piece. The goal is not to cover or alter the quilt, but rather, to enhance the feeling it invokes.

For those who are curious the makeup of this quilt, I have shared that the top is a Moda solid fat quarter, the backing an inexpensive calico from likely a box store, and the thread is a mix of cotton on top from Connecting Threads and Glide which is a popular shiny polyester thread. The batting is two layers of Hobbs 80/20 which has become my favorite go to quilt batting and what I use for virtually everything. Though I enjoy long arm quilting, this was quilted on a Juki TL-2010Q sit down domestic sewing machine. For quilting enthusiasts, this is the model that came out shortly after the Juki TL 98, the machine that became infamous among members of the quilting community through the instructional videos of quilting legend Sharon Schamber.

Currently, this piece is blocking on a craft table I have unfolded and allowed to dominate the kitchen. As I have mentioned, I no longer have the space to sew that I once had, but difficult circumstances have never proven to stop me from pursuing my interests. Besides, it's the evening and no cooking will happen until tomorrow. Let's hope it dries quickly.

Other things on my mind: I have yet to figure out how to reply to your comments. Let me tell you I loved reading your comments! It feels so nice to be welcomed with such warmth back into the quilting world. Creative people love to share, and even more we love eager spectators to our crafting sport. So know that I appreciate your words, and that you have taken time to visit. Once I have a moment to sort out the glitches I will try to respond to your kind contributions.

Monday, December 31, 2018

A New Year and Many Changes

It has been a few years since I last posted - my oh my! Where has the time gone?! I must be honest that it has been less than easy to look back over this blog and all of the memories contained within it. Many changes have occurred since I last shared with you all. I have not been quilting really at all - and if you are curious as to why and follow the Pumpkin Patch Quilter Facebook page I have shared a little bit of back story as to the reason I have been away. For the sake of my family and my own well being, that is all that I want to share at this time - and my time away from the quilting world. My heart is full with the warmth and kindness with which you all have welcomed me back, I truly thank you for that!

Currently, I am going back to college full time and attempting yet gain to finish that undergraduate degree that got away from me so many years ago! My days are extremely full and busy, but I am having a wonderful time learning and growing. My children are growing too - and it is incredible to witness.

Quilting was difficult for a little while but I am thrilled to find myself again inspired again to sew. I am not really sure to what capacity I will continue my quilting business. I am in a new home - and my long arm is still not up and running. My hopes are to change that here over winter break.

In the mean time, I do have the Juki set up and have been dabbling. Here are a few photos of what I am currently making.

This is free hand doodling basically. I am using cotton thread on top that literally was just laying around and happened to match - it is from Connecting Threads. In the bobbin is Glide in an off white shade. Doubled the polyester batting - just some scraps. The plan is to paint this a little - and then who knows what.

My schedule is hectic so if you email, forgive me for taking a little time to respond, but I assure you that I will respond. So many things have happened during my absence, and one of the things I was so very saddened to discover is that Machine Quilting Unlimited is no more! What a wonderful publication that magazine was and it will be greatly missed. I suppose I have a lot of exploring to do to see how my favorite quilters have changed and grown!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Playing Catch Up!

It has been a very busy August into September for the Smith family.  During August I wrapped up the month finishing as many client quilts as I was able to work on so that I could take a nice 4 week long stretch away from quilting to get the kids settled back at school.  The end of the month into September we also were able to enjoy our bi-annual Disney vacation!  School is now back in full swing and we are even in the middle of the quarter.  Interim reports were just sent home - I can hardly believe it - and the weather is starting to really feel like fall.  That means it is quilting season!  This is my absolute busiest time of the year. 

I am still co-designing for Urban Elementz and if you missed it on Facebook we do have a new design collaboration available!

It is called Mystic by Patricia E. Ritter and Valerie Smith.  It was based off of the original quilting I designed for Lisa's Jungle Abstractions quilt shared in my last post.  I am really excited to use this one as it has such great unique texture.  Take a look!

I have six quilts all waiting to be completed IMMEDIATELY so I better get to work.  Playing a game of catch up after a nice relaxing break from quilting - looking forward to getting a chance to play again.  I hope I still remember how to turn my machine on!  :)

Happy Fall and Happy Quilting!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quilts and What's Happening in My World

Finally, the weather is beginning to cool down.  The hot summer days pushing us out of the house and into local air conditioned establishments are beginning to fade.  School starts next week, football and cheer leading are back in season.  The Husband's last softball game of the year was last night.  It's just about FALL!

I love fall so very much.  Not only the cool weather but the beautiful foliage we are treated to every September through November in north east Ohio.  I can already see orange and yellow tinges starting to take hold on the leaves.  I'm so ready for the show mother nature puts on every year.

I always have quilts to share, but I do love to share some of the other fun things happening in my world too.  Our semi-annual Disney trip is just around the corner.  I haven't made nearly the number of costumes for this trip as I have in the past, but I did make a dress!  I made the dress known among Disney bounders and Cosplay enthusiasts as the "mouse made dress" for my 5 year old.  I think it turned out so beautiful!  Even if garment sewing isn't my strong suit!

Here is a little collage I made to share the dress and my daughter twirling herself silly in it.  I just cannot wait to see her wearing this in front of Cinderella's castle!

Other projects for our trip are in the works, but I did also manage to find time to squeeze in these mouse ears for the girls.  This one is Ariel themed - my amazing friend made us these "dinglehopper" hair clips to wear and they worked perfectly with their mouse ears!

Tonight I'm hoping to finish up some ears for the baby and Elsa/Frozen themed ears my 5 year old has requested.  I almost didn't make anything this time and my almost 11 year old was devastated - she tells me "mom!  Half of the fun is dressing up!"  I'll make crafters out of these girls yet!

Other big happenings - I broke down and bought my dream camera!!!  This was a big purchase for me.  The biggest I have ever made on something entirely for myself outside of my Juki.  While quilting and sewing are my absolute life's passions (outside of my family of course) - photography is sort of instant gratification for me.  It's a nice break from quilts that can often take months or years to complete, and of course it allows me to document my beautiful babes!  I've had it a total of six days now and I've put it to good use!  Here are a few of my favorite shots:

I am finding I really love black and white!  I ordered a few 8x10 prints that are scheduled to be delivered today, and I cannot wait to see how they turned out.  Photography is visual like quilting and art so I feel like it's a totally great fit for me.  Of course, a new camera means new and more detailed images of QUILTS!

So here (finally!) are a few of the quilts I have been working on this past month.  I will have to break it up because I've already gotten quite photo heavy in this post

First is Lisa's Jungle Abstractions Lion Quilt (pattern by Violet Craft).  I have seen this top created in a number of color ways but this one in particular is really my favorite.  Those aqua's with gray are just so striking.

I really tried to replicate fur but in a quilty way!  I didn't want to be really literal, it's a fantasy "abstract" quilt so I think (hope!) this design did the trick.  Because it is a very geometric quilt I didn't want to lose the angular feeling with feathers and swirls - so in the facial structure of the lion I tried to maintain that feeling.

For the eyes I left some areas of white ditched and not quilted to give him some dimension.  Paired with pebbling I think it is very effective.

Lisa's lion quilt was in the 65" range - I don't have her paperwork in front of me or I'd give better measurements!  We used Glide thread in Auqamarine in both the top and bobbin, and Lisa sent along her own cotton batting lower loft batting.  For this one in particular I don't think a second layer of batting would have really added a lot.  Certainly I like to see a lot of dimension, but this quilt has SO much happening that I think it looks just as beautiful with a single layer of batting.

Another couple of quilts finished up this week are this pair of baby quilts I worked on for Darlene.  She is going to add applique over top the already quilted pieces - she chose the pantograph Monkey Jungle by Melonie Caldwell for Urban Elementz.

I worked on a few more quilts but being my next post will likely be a little more fall themed I'll save them!  I hope everyone is quilting up a storm in blog land!

- Valerie

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Susan's Quilts Finished! A Blue and White Beauty and a Winter Wonderland Themed

It's almost been another month.  Where does the time go?  I think my children have come to an age that they steal the day away from me (of course I love spending my days with them!) and before I know it, it's bed time.  :)  It's been a busy summer full of library visits, slip n'slides, and trips to the zoo.  We've been having a good time, and they are keeping me running, that's for sure!  Today they are off with my In-Laws for an adventure at the local amusement park.  I cannot say I'm not enjoying this day of peace and catching up on work that has been looming over my head!  I hate to say it, but I am looking forward to the peace and quiet that will come when school starts.  This year my second youngest daughter is not in pre-school, so I'm hoping to get the kids on the bus and not spend the day running to and from three different schools all day.  I long to work on fun quilting!

So what have I been doing quilt-wise?  Well I won't lie with all the kids home I'm moving at a slower pace, but steady nonetheless.  I just recently finished Susan's blue and white quilt...and I have to tell you, this is my FAVORITE kind of quilting.  She also picked just a perfect backing for it, I wish I had  taken a better photo!  It was white and blue - kind of like a french toile.  It was just perfect for this quilt.

We used two layers of batting for the nice lofty look -it gives such great definition for a quilt that is going to receive a lot of quilting.  Glide thread in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin.

Some of you who enlarge the photographs and like to look close might catch two little patches on the corner of a star that I missed - I did fix those before sending home.  Due to time constraints I did not go back and take new photos, but rest assured it was quilted!  :)

Below is a little photo of the mock up I sent to Susan - some folks express they like to see these!  :)  It also gives you an idea of how much the quilting really can add to a quilt.  Susan's quilt measured approximately 96" x 67".

I actually did two quilts for Susan, I cannot believe I almost forgot to share!  This sweet little Bear Paw winter wonderland themed quilt was SO MUCH FUN to work on.  It took as long as some of the larger quilts I have quilted if you can believe it.  I think the end result is gorgeous though, I really love it.

Again I used two layers of Hobbs 80/20.  I went with very simple quilting in the borders because I knew the applique would cover a portion towards the top of the quilt.  I really find that some quilting in small borders like this one really help maintain the neatness and square shape of the top.  The only recommendation I might make to folks working with similar quilts is to add a border to the outside to help prevent distortion with those bias edges.  Both this quilt and the blue and white quilt will likely have some issues hanging straight without blocking, and primarily it's the outer borders.  I always do what I can to pull things in, but that additional stay stitching OR an additional border will really help keep it from distorting...even adding the binding could stretch it a little bit.

This is totally my kind of quilt though.  I just love everything about it.  I know a lot of folks are not fans of pebbles but I am!  I think they are so classic.

This one measures 41" x 41".  I used primarily Superior Threads Omni for this quilt because I had plenty of variety of colors on hand that would match.

Love the quilting in the bears too.  I wanted to add some detail and texture that looked a bit like fur.  I was just recently telling a fellow machine quilter that I often refer to cartoon drawings for children and illustrations to get ideas for quilting in characters like this.  Those large open spaces definitely needed something though.

All in all I am pleased and I think Susan is too!  They should be arriving home any day now. 

Also - I just discovered that around 20 or so comments were stuck in moderation!  Please forgive me for the delay in posting and replies!!!  I just released them and will get back with all of you soon!

In other news I think just about all that is on the tv is talk about the Republican National Convention which is currently taking place about 45 minutes from me, and the heat wave that is about to hit this part of the country!  I am preparing to lose power and likely quilting time this week.  Maybe a run for ice cream is order.

Happy Quilting!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Recent Quilts and Update

I cannot believe it's been an entire MONTH since I last posted!!!  That is really unusual for me, and I have been updating this blog for years.  I think the biggest delay in sharing has been because I do share so regularly on Facebook, but also because I've really been actively trying to make time to enjoy my family.  I still work, and work a LOT, but I also try to be present for my children.  The income over the years has been a blessing, more than most can know, so I'm extremely grateful for the steady and continued business.  I don't plan to slow it down until Olivia is in school full time, and then I think I may explore a permanent studio outside of my home for teaching.  I've been toying with ideas and we'll see which one sticks.  Luckily I have some time still before I make that leap.

Recent quilt finishes, that's what you really want to see though, right? 

Here's Kathy's Glacier Star...this one she requested lots and lots of pebbles and fancy quilting.  I used black metallic thread for the feathers in the open black spaces which adds just a bit of sparkle.  I used Super Threads metallic.  Two layers of Hobbs 80/20 batting and Bottom Line Thread in the top and bobbin. 

I photographed this in the house and outside of the house too - I think the first one taken indoors gives better detail of the quilting.  I do love these Judy Niemeyer quilts very much, but they can be a challenge for long armers to quilt!  LOTS of time consuming ditchwork and it can be difficult to be creative.  Kathy had lots of requests for what she wanted in specific areas so I tried as best I could to accomodate her wants.  I think we ended up with a really lovely quilting job.

I always try to emulate a photograph if someone sends me one and recreate the look in my own personal style as best I can.  I do avoid copying exactly from another quilter.  The thing is, like handwriting, all quilting will be a little different.  I cannot quilt just like your favorite long arm quilter - but I can give you the feel that you like and incorporate elements similar in style or taste.  My feathers will never look exactly like anyone else's...but if you like the feathers you see that I have done, well I can certainly do more of those or elaborate on them for you!

Here are a few more views of the same areas but from different angles so you can see different portions of quilting:

I do really like how the center turned out.  Kathy's color choices were gorgeous.

I was very excited to finally quilt a Judy Niemeyer!  This was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to more that are scheduled to come my way.

The second quilt that Kathy sent me felt very primitive...and as a matter of fact she told me all of the fabric is Primitive Gatherings fabric!  I channeled Linda Hrcka and attempted some designs I hadn't done before. 


The sort of plaid/checkered border was the biggest design element that was new to me here.  I used Linda Hrcka's straight edge rulers and the markings on it were an immense help.  If you haven't checked out her rulers yet and you are a long arm quilter you should!  I tend to do a lot of traditional work and her rulers are fantastic:

Again we used two layers of batting - I used Glide up top and Bottom Line in the bobbin for this one.  I think the combination worked well but I'm still a fan first and foremost of thin threads on top for this kind of quilting.  I am still thrilled with the look.

I believe Kathy had said this was a free patterern found on Moda's website to advertise the Primitive Gatherings fabric line, but she made some additions to it that really added a lot to the piece.  Check out those stars too - the checkerboard centerpieces were NOT paper pieced...she fussed with all of those 1" squares!!  This woman has much more patience than I do!

 Though I of course adored the Glacier Star I think the primitive quilt was my favorite to work on...but I did enjoy them both.  I love when I have the opportunity to experiment and play!  I have two more customs I'm hoping to have finished up this week and I'll post some photographs for you.

In other news I have really been interested as of late in garment sewing!  One of the things I've been looking at is purchasing a dress form.  I asked sewing friends on Facebook for recommendations and one that I really liked was this one from The Shop Company:

It's a little pricey but looks as though it has all of the features that are really important to me.  Gertie from Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing did a great review on it here:

I just love her.  I'm really obsessed with all things 50's right now...and sewing wise, reproducing some of those fun old vintage patterns.  She totally inspires me!  I have done a little bit of garment sewing in the past from pattern, but I'm really exciting at the possibility of playing and creating my own designs too.

So far all I have been able to squeeze time in for are these cute little reversable peter pan collars!  I added hook and eye clasps to them but they aren't secure enough so I'm going to go with metal button clasps instead.  My 14 year old has decided they aren't half bad and wants me to make a few for her too.  I did start  to make a little octopus appliqu for a shirt that I know my Husband will tease me endlessly about...but it's adorable.

I will really try not to let another month go by before posting again!  Certainly I have plenty of things to share!  I hope all are doing well out there in blogland - speak on up!  I do love to interact with you and reply to comments!

Happy Quilting!

- Valerie