Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ellen's Quilt in Progress

Just sharing a little progress on Ellen's quilt...

I am having quite a bit of fun with this on!  Ellen sent me a photo of a beautiful quilt she found on the internet heirloom quilted with Nemeshing filler.  We adapted it to her beautiful quilt and I'm so thrilled with how it is coming along!  This quilt is 84" x 85", we are using two layers of Hobbs 80/20 and Bottom Line in both the top and bobbin. 

Lots of other projects are happening but not a ton that I can share publicly just yet.  I am keeping busy though!  I did marathon this little baby quilt for Cindy this past weekend, it turned out so cute!  I wasn't able to get spectacular photos of it unfortunately as she needed it back in a hurry.

Nancy Donovan was kind enough to share some photos with me of my quilt hanging at Road to California also!  Do you see who I am hanging next to??  To the left of my quilt is 3rd place winner in my category Margaret Solomon Gunn's quilt entitled Ode to Spring.  To the right is Elizabeth's Butterflies by Corey Allendar who won an Honorable Mention.  Woot woot!  Congratulations to those talented ladies and yay for hanging next such beauties!

There is so much news to share I feel like this is becoming a real run on blog!  I am scheduled for two articles to appear in Machine Quilting Unlimited early this year so look for those!  I am over the moon thrilled about them as it is such an honor to have the opportunity to write for my all time favorite magazine.  I don't think it gets much better than that! 

I have a quilt hanging in a local show about an hour from me and the opening reception is in about two weeks.  I'm thrilled for that and hope to have good news to share!  This is my first time entering so it's kind of exciting to have a quilt at a local venue where I can actually see it hanging.  Woohoo!  Farmpark is always a really good show too so I will be sure to share lots of photos with you.  Until then!  Back to work for this girl!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Making of a Show Quilt

Road to California judging has ended and sadly there is no good news to report.  While I would be a big stinking liar if I said I wasn't at least a little disappointed, I truly honestly mean it when I say I am honored to know what amazing company my quilt will be hanging with!  Road to California is a pretty big and prestigious show - one of the largest I know of in terms of monetary prizes.  Of course, big awards usually mean - REALLY big famous amazing quilters.  The quilts you see in magazines and on quilt show brochures.  So I really feel amazing to have a quilt at the show among that great lot!  Maybe some of their good mojo will rub off onto my quilt...  :)

I do still plan to send this out to more shows.  How many and where will depend on how it does in the next few I have lined up.  Showing quilts is a bit of an expensive hobby!

I believe Road to California judges are chosen a bit differently than some of the other large shows and I'm still trying to decipher how they come to judging decisions.  I will say that to date on both of the entries I have sent in the things the judges weren't too keen on were things I suspected I might get dinged on.  I make every effort to listen with one ear open and try to look at a piece through their eyes.  Certainly at the end of the day I want to make something I am in love with, and I really love this piece, imperfections and all.  I am human and somebody has to lose, and to do so they have to find a way to eliminate someone based on something.  So to that extent, "negative" comments are not taken to heart but instead filed in the back of my mind as to what to pay closer attention to next time - in hopes that they have no more things to ding me on with the next quilt!  :)

If you have been following along I have been working on this quilt for more than a year and it has been on a journey in its own creation.  I pieced the center dahlia, I believe, shortly after I bought my long arm.  Gosh maybe it was before my long arm!  It was my first attempt with English paper piecing - and I have grown quite a bit in my piecing and applique skills since this tops creation.  Never the less I love the quilt and I'm glad I went ahead and completed it.

I made quite a few changes along the way as I am still discovering my voice as a quilter - what I like,what I don't like, what works, and what doesn't.  I had a number of revelations during the process.  I think I'm really on the right path to what kind of quilts I want to create.

I realized I love loud and bright colors - and traditional quilts.  I think in the beginning the quilt was a bit bi-polar.  You could almost see the artist in me saying, "who am I?  Am I modern?  Am I traditional?  Am I just a hot mess of fabric?"

Eventually it came together and I think the final result really embodies me, my style, and what I like to see and do as a quilt artist.  I feel like this quilt was my yellow brick road leading me along the path to really awesome fun creations.

I experimented TONS and tons and tons with quilting.  I drew out the quilting plan a bazillion times.  25?  50?  I have to go count to find the exact number but I have every trial quilting plan I made up on the computer and on parchment paper before quilting this.  I also hand made stencils for special areas of quilting that I kept in a file for future use/reference.

I know I was pregnant with my youngest, now 7 month old daughter Olivia when the actual quilting of this quilt occurred.  I had wanted to marathon quilt it during the last month of my pregnancy but alas - I was tired!!!  I did get to it early on after Olivia was born - I want to say by the time she was two weeks old.  Over the course of several weeks I completed it during her nap times.

More than anything I'm proud of the quilting on this quilt.  I am a better piecer than when I began, and definitely a better quilter.  I learned SO many things that I will take with me as I am working on my next show quilt.  I might love the back as much if not more than the front.

I used two layers of black Hobbs 80/20 for batting.  Threads used were Kimono Silk and Bottom Line by Superior Threads, and Invisifil for most of the black background quilting.  I had initially planned on quilting with black metallic thread but once I got going I just didn't like the way it looked.

Here are a few close ups of my final effort that resulted in the quilt entitled Impermanence.  This is my very first attempt at a real bonafied made for just for showing and sharing quilt.

I was very proud of the framework quilting around the dahlia and chose to paint it with metallic fabric paint to make it pop.  We have yet to see how this will play with judges in future shows and there was no comment of it shared with me from the Road to California judges.

What the judges liked were the quilting in which they said was "very well done", and they really liked the gradient colors.  They liked the curving scalloped outer edging and felt it added positively to the mood of the quilt.

I won't share what they dinged until this is done going to shows but I can share that I sort of expected it.  If they were going to get me on anything, I knew immediately what it would be.  Lessons for the next quilt.  :)

Another thing I need to consider next time is the category.  This was entered into Traditional Wall - I don't know where else I would have put it.  But then, a similar whole cloth style quilt I sent off to a regional show close to me was moved from the miniature category I entered it in to the special techniques category though it was very very small.  I do wonder if this would have fit better or would have even alified to be entered into another category.  It's tricky business as I don't want to take a chance of making a mistake resulting in disqualification but certainly I want the best opportunity for it to be judged.

I attempted for the first time a flanged binding...this was FUN and I love the way it turned out!  I will definitely use this technique again and I hope with even better execution on the next piece.  I love how this brings the colors out to the edge without interfering with the design of the quilt or the quilting plan.  What a lot of fussing this was I tell you - worth the work but it was WORK that's for sure.

The grayish blue painting on the outer edge of the quilt that looks almost like lace is where I wanted more of the quilting to stand out.  I think it added quite a bit to the quilt - without it the quilt would have been terribly bare because there is minimal piecing.  I think in the future this experience will really change my approach at designing the quilt top.  I learned that sometimes quilting is just not enough to fill up and add interest to negative space.  I will use this technique again I believe but now I know how I can refine it to make it even better.

Crystals were another addition that I think added quite a bit to the quilt but I know judges can have strong opinions about them.  Road judges made no mention of them but I think they did work well on this particular quilt.  I don't know, are crystals still showing up on show quilts or are they beginning to fade?  I hear mixed comments about them online and just don't have access to big national shows the way many folks do so I'm at a loss.  I like the way they looked - but also I'm still weaning myself from trying to incorporate every technique I have ever learned into one quilt.  RESTRAINT...this was a huge lesson in restraint for me!

All in all I think my first real grown up show quilt attempt was a success.  I'm so excited to share it at more shows and it has really motivated me to make progress on the next!  Surely I will share with you my thoughts and lessons along the way.  With luck, fingers crossed for me, this will head to MQX East next this spring.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Cindy's Border Creek Mystery Quilt - Finished!

My first customer quilt of the year is finished!  I feel like I am light years behind everyone though as I have noticed that some of my quilting pals have already pieced entire projects this year!  I tell you when a quilter wants something done...

Well I have accomplished quite a bit but less on my own projects than I have others.  Cindy sent me in December her Border Creek Mystery after seeing what I did for Jane.  What is funny is that this quilt really stumped me when I first saw it.  I thought I might faint when I learned I would need to quilt another one - and Cindy was very specific she wanted different quilting!  I think we did well here.  There are some elements that are similar to Jane's quilt but I still think we achieved a very different feeling.  I knew immediately I would want to do piano keys in the outer borders as sometimes these very large quilts get quite a bit of excess fabric in the borders and by the time we get to quilting them they need something to help them quilt out evenly and neatly.  Feathers also do a great job at this but since the borders were very narrow and we already had done partial feathers I opted to again go with this design.

The dimensions of this top were 95" x 94".  Cindy loves to send me very large quilt tops!  I used So Fine! by Superior Threads in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin, and Hobbs 80/20 batting in one layer.

I get a lot of questions about ditching - how and when I choose to do this - and the answer to that is that it varies.  Usually I try to do what I think will look best with the quilt.  Most custom quilting I do has some degree of ditching. 

On this quilt I chose to ditch the framework of the quilt - which to me is the outer borders, and the small thin blue borders on the outer portion of the quilt. The body of the quilt then feels like one continuous piece with delicate framing of feathers and scrolls surrounding it.

There is always some amount of personal taste that goes into quilting - be it that of the quilt owner or that of the quilter to which the quilt owner has entrusted.  Just as we all have different and unique handwriting - we all have a different styles of quilting.  Feathers are definitely part of my personal quilt hand writing for sure!

Choosing a backing fabric is something else to really think about, and I think a lot of folks forget this part.  I love to see the quilting on a beautiful neutral backing - but that is what I like.  I have encountered folks who do not like to see ANY of the quilting on the reverse and send along very busy backing fabric.  I think what Cindy sent along was absolutely perfect for this particular design plan and quilt.  What a lovely reverse she will have in natural light when laid across a bed.

Up next is another quilt for Ellen and what a stunning beauty it will be.  She has requested Nemeshing along with a custom plan we worked on together and I am looking forward to attempting this fun filler developed by Bethanne Nemesh.

After this string of really stunning traditional quilts I have in house, in wait are a string of modern quilts!  So it will be a colorful and interesting few months of work ahead! 

I hope your New Year is full of quilting already!