Monday, June 21, 2010

Seahorse Samba begins the Journey to Life

The background for the center medallion is pieced and marked. Stitching down the appliqué started today. Here's a quick glimpse as I was getting the pieces placed for stitching.



It really glows on that deep blue background!



There's a long way to go, but at least the process has begun!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pressing Seams

I know this might be a hot topic, but still, it bears discussion.

I asked this question at MQR as the question of the week, but I think I'll repeat it here.

How do you press your seams? to the side, or open?  And why?

All I can say is, there is no right or wrong way...only the way that works for you.

I am going to talk about what works for me.

I press open.  OMG! Did she really say that?...yes I did. And here is why.

Yes, I got a nice 'nesting' when I would press to the side as I was taught "a thousand years ago, lol" .   BUT! and this is a big  but: If I have more than two seams that come together, it really can throw my accuracy off....both at the piecing stage and at the quilting stage, with that telltale lump.

As a former" longarm quilter for hire" I can tell you that I quilted my share (and then some) of lumpy quilts.  You know what I mean...those huge lumps at the seam intersections.

Well, after a few of those, I started looking at my own piecing/pressing habits.  They were straight out of the quilters bible..".press to the dark side" unless there is too much bulk...then press to the light side.

That works fine if; and it's a BIG if: #1 there are only two seams (or maybe four); and #2 the fabrics are either; of equal value so there is no show through when pressing to the light...and you are fastidious about clipping any overhang and ALL your dark threads.

Neither of which seamed to work in my business life.

So, I wanted my quilts to be better...I compete, so that is important.  So I started pressing all my seams open.

Now I don't make a lot of pieced quilts, but I do make pieced backgrounds for applique. And, I want to 'grow' as a quilter and artist.

So, I tried pressing the seams open.  At first, only the ones where many seams came together...I was waiting for the quilt police to come....they never did.  AND, I liked how nice and flat my seams were.

So I tried it on others, and I have to tell you...I am a convert to pressing everything open.

And the benefit...other than less lumps when I go to quilt a piece?  WOW, I find that I am soooooo much more accurate!

Now, a perfect piecer, I will never be. But I am pleased with how much better my piecing is.  Now, in full disclosure, I also starch the snot out of it all at every step of the way.  (Only good for pieces you can wash).  But mostly what I do other than wholecloths,  is appliqué...and I use a h2o soluble stabilizer and glue for that...so washing is a given.   The exception is the art quilts I do with mixed media...those don't get washed (just vacuumed) so no glue or starch on them.

But for washable quilts, press it all open is my mantra.  Some examples....Notice I use two colors of thread...one that blend with each fabric...there is nothing more distracting than seeing contrasting thread in a seam







I really like Mary Ellen's Best press, but I ran out...this worked fine







look how nice they went together





No, I do't proclaim to be a perfect piecer...nothing could be further from the truth, but I do want try keep trying to improve my techniques, and this has definitely helped.  These blocks are not perfect by any means, but they are pretty good. And even though pressing open takes a couple seconds longer...I'm OK with that. I've never been a fast quilter anyway...either at the piecing/appliqué stage,  or at the quilting.  My view...slow and steady wins the race.   And makes me happier with the results.



and look, that backs are as pretty as the fronts!



So is this for everyone?  No, probably not.  But it works for me and I am very happy with my blocks.

now, as to that question I know you're asking...What about stitching in the ditch on all those seams that are pressed open?  Well, in my own quilts...I quilt it all to death...so I am adding thread on top of thread...I think it will all hold together :)

Not for the faint of heart, I know. But...........

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Add some Starfish and Diamonds

Today I worked on the seahorses again.  I made another center for the flower (from fabric in my stash).  I like this one much better.



Prepared a bunch of starfish appliqués to circle around my seahorses



Prepared the other parts of the shell appliqués







Got out the "GO" cutter and cut out a bunch of "peaky &  Spike" block parts



That made lots of these



Which then made lots of these



So, add today's work to what I did yesterday and I have a pretty good start on this quilt!

I even cut some drunkards path blocks out using my "GO" die.  I tell you, the strip dies are nice, as are all the others; but the real bonus to me about the "GO" cutter are the dies like "Peaky & Spike" and the Drunkards Path that you would normally have to use templates for cutting.  This is soooo much easier and faster.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More work on the Seahorses

After my guild meeting this morning I went by "Gloria's Stash" again...needed a couple more greens and a nice red batik.  I tell you, if you like batiks, that place is hard to stay away from!



This afternoon I had planned to work on quilting the bird of paradise quilt, but there was thunder and lightning around all afternoon.

So instead, I worked on preparing some of my appliqué  for" Seahorse Samba". I got most of it cut out and glued to the stabilizer.  I even cut out the pieced blocks (with the "GO" cutter)



I decided I wanted the seahorses to go clockwise instead of counter-clockwise like I originally drew.  And, I don't like the fabric in the flower center...it's too drab.  Guess I'll have to go back to the shop :)

Generally, though I'm liking this...especially on that dark blue background...it really glows!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Seahorse Samba"

A couple days ago, I shared fabrics for one of my new quilts here. Well, today I'm going to give you a little peak of  that quilt design; and a look at the tools and methods I use to draw my full size patterns for large quilts.

I first start with a rough sketch in my sketchbook, always very small scale.  I find it easier to work small at first.  Then I scan my sketch into the computer where  I then import it into a drawing program. I prefer a vector drawing program...my favorite is Pre design studio II, though many programs will work; including photoshop elements and EQ. both of which I have and use for many things.

Here, I refine my sketch, scale it and then print my appliqué  pieces.  I also now do some of my sketches on my iPad using some of the drawing apps.  Then I can just e-mail the sketches to myself and import them from there to finish them up and print the appliqué  patterns.

My next step is to start an EQ file if I didn't already do so, that includes everything, including  pieced blocks that I want to add. From that , I can determine my final layout and calculate my fabric requirements.  That file also ensures I have an easy way to write a pattern for sale  if I choose to make it available to others.

Other than the computer, here are some of the tools I use in drawing my patterns to scale.



I use grid paper (with a half inch grid) to draw my full size pattern. It comes on a roll 30" wide x 100 yds., and I just tape sections together to get the size I need...the grid makes it easy.  This makes the pattern I use to mark my quilt top.  I also make templates of my appliqué  shapes from the patterns I printed from my drawing program,  using either template plastic or fun foam (the one with no adhesive).  This time  I used the foam. They are useful for lots of other applications too (like sun printing, for one).  I draw the circles for my medallions using Renae's rays...they are the easiest and most accurate way to draw large circles...up to 84" in diameter.  In these photos, the outermost diameter is 35and 1/2"  The final pattern(not shown) has additional circles outside what you see here up to 43" diameter.



Then with Renae's ray  tool, I can divide the circle into segments...I divided this one into 8 sections.  Now,  you also see another set of divisions...those mark  the center of my pattern to the outside corners of my paper pattern.  Since this is a rectangle instead of a square, I need this additional set of lines to line up the other elements outside the circles.



And these are my foam templates



I always find a way to get feathers of one sort or another into my quilts....







And the templates in their places to complete 1/8th of the inside portion of my center medallion. After setting them in the positions I want, I  transfer them using an ultra fine  sharpie marker to the paper pattern itself.  The starfish outside the circles is enclosed in the next set of circles that were added after these photos were taken.

There is much more to this design, including pieced blocks, but you'll have to wait for next year's show season to see the entire piece.



So, that gives you a little insight into how I create my designs.  There are many ways to accomplish the design/pattern process, this is just what works for me.

And while you don't get to see the entire piece for a while, I will give you a glimpse of the progress  now and then . :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A New Flamingo

Today I spent a little time working on a new commission quilt...a flamingo.



It is small 24"x26".  The borders are on, the appliqué is stitched down.  The beak is soft structure Tyvek; painted then heated, and will be stitched down in the quilting process.  I still have to paint the eye too.



Right now it is nekked :) It will also have wool feathers; free cut and stitched on during the quilting process...similar to this one I did for a class door prize last year.





I'm just waiting for my order of wool to arrive!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No AC again to start the day!

A big power surge, then all power off  at 7am and no AC again...day 2.  This time, not due to my equipment, but FPL...a main power line, offline.

Another day of record heat...blech!

But once again, all is repaired and now we have AC again!   I sure hope that's the last day without.  I'm getting pretty grouchy in this heat.... just sayin'.

On the good news front, a new quilt shop opened today in my neighborhood..."Gloria's Stash" and it is FABULOUS!!!  THE best collection of batiks I have found anyway in one place...including online.   I will be a regular there for sure!  And it's just down the street...I can ride my bike!  Though, I'll need a bigger basket,lol!

For my next quilt, I was missing two fabrics...I found them today at Gloria's!



and they go with these I already had from Sew Batik



Nice together, aren't they?

And then the finished top from my latest pattern for Vicki's gradients



with my supervisor Harry, of course!  Now I just need to quilt  it.

The video instruction for putting this all together can be found in the Premier videos  forum on MQR. I just finished posting the last one.

And very soon, Vicki and I will have a kit for this and the moons available. So stay tuned and

stay cool!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot,Hot,Hot!

And no air conditioning today!  The company was here at 9am to install a new system, so that meant all day with no AC...in south Florida in the summer...oh joy.  I tried to work for a while, but soon gave up...just too hot.  So we spent the day in the pool and drank a ton of ice water.   The cats were miserable too..and just laid around...no crazy antics today.

They finally finished about 6:30 this evening.  So we are back in the cool now and everybody is happy again.  And Harry went from lying around on the  wet shower floor to this:







Ahhhh, cool at last...now maybe I can get a nap!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Soap!

Don informed me yesterday that we were getting low on soap. So today I made soap.

I make all our soap.  Some cold processed and some hot processed. I make lots of different varieties using all types of oils and butters..my soaps are very rich and full of moisturizing oils and butters, since we live in the hot sun our skin tends to get very dried out.

Some have natural colorants and some without, some with fragrance and some without, and some in fancy molds. But most just plain loaves with no color or fragrance added that I'll slice into bars after they've cured.  The plain loaves don't make pretty photos, so I'll just show you some of the fancy looking ones.

The transparent ones are aloe vera based



The rest have varied combinations of oils and butters.





I also made  a couple batches of body butters.

Someone asked me a while back about how I get the soaps out of the fancy molds, because they always had trouble getting them out. It's easy, I just rub a little coconut carrier oil in the mold before pouring the soap mixture in.  Then once they've set up, they just pop right out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

EQ7 Upgrade

Arrived today and I spent the afternoon playing with it.  I like it!  The new features are great and easy to use.

Now to work on some new designs! :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Private worshops

I had many questions about the private workshops I do. I have answered those who wanted to schedule privately, but I thought I'd answer the general questions here.

I do private classes/workshops on several topics: Various topics on longarm quilting; machine quilting in general (including domestic machine); machine applique; art quilting; fabric dyeing and painting( don't confuse my dyeing with Vicki's...it's a whole different animal).  I do individual classes; shared classes (2 friends splitting the time and cost); small groups; and a limited number of lecture/trunk shows.  I also offer online video-based classes at MQR, and I teach at MQS in May each year.

Quite few of you have asked for an example of a private, individual class (one student only)... this is one of the many I offer.  All of the private one on one classes are tailored to meet the needs of that individual. Below is one example.

Taught in my home studio...."Learning the Dance".... A 6 hour workshop geared to one who has been quilting for a while, but wants to expand their skills and confidence.  We cover optimizing your machine and how to choose and use the tools needed.  Three small quilt tops are provided for the student to execute specific skills with my guidance, that are necessary for  quilting at the next level, whatever that might be for them.  Everything needed for the class and lunch is provided.

An example of the quilt tops used in the class...







These three tops,one  pieced,one wholecloth, and one appliqué,  provide ample opportunity to cover a wide variety of skills.They are all 18" square when complete and trimmed.  And the student has three small quilts when they're done to take home with them that could be wall hangings or pillows.

The class also includes a workbook complete with practice pages specific to the class taken.



I hope that answers the general questions.  For specific questions and pricing  you can contact me here.

Back in the swing

Between travel and being ill, and add to that my perpetual state of being behind :), I think(emphasis on think) I may be sort of caught up... maybe even  close to being on schedule!  Shocked? You should be, I know I am!

So here's the litany:  Last Circle Lord online class...done!

Next Circle Lord online class outlined and filming to begin next week.

Next MQR Premier video filming done except for the last day...then there's the editing to go.  (This one might be a day or two late)

Private workshop scheduled for later this week...All prepped and ready

postcards for latest MQR swap, done and going in the mail tomorrow (only 7 days late, might be a new record for me...that's a good thing, in case your wondering)

family postcards...some late some early, but all done and going in tomorrow's mail!

Latest DVD of MQR Premier videos...editing done and Master burned!  Will be ready to take orders very soon!

Class proposals for 2011MQS in progress and almost done! (way ahead of schedule...yes, it's a fluke not likely to be repeated,lol)

Final details of 6 new patterns to be released with Vicki's fabric kits almost done. ( And there are 3 more in the early stages that will be ready in the fall)

Two new show quilts begun (very early stages)

Outlines for several new classes/workshops done

preparations started for the two oldest granddaughters (and their mother's visit the beginning of July ( two old folks smiling from ear to ear in anticipation)

There is a ton more stuff on my calendar, but I'm sure you've had your fill of my schedule by now, so I'll quit.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This and That

I'm finally all well.  It feels good to feel good again. Just in time for the Florida summer...heat index the last 2 days 103...bleck!

I spent this past week teaching in two places...online class at MQR and a private workshop in Miami...I had to work hard to keep my little pea brain straight with what to say and do when,lol!

I got an e-mail yesterday from EQ, that my EQ7 shipped yesterday, yeah!

Found out that a new fabric shop is opening June 10 IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD...I mean right down the street!  I went by there today and drooled as I watched them thru the window putting bolt after bolt of beautiful batiks on the shelves..and they are carrying Superior threads..great to have in case I run out in the middle of a project.

My DSM started acting up yesterday, and I could't fix the issue after 3 hours of trying.  Took it in to my dealer (Expert Sewing) just before noon; they called me at 3pm to say it was fixed and ready.WOW, how's that for customer service?!

Don fixed a scrumptious dinner tonight.

And I have two fur babies asleep in my lap as I write this, Life is good!