Friday, September 23, 2016

My Last Ladies of the Sea

This is my 5th Ladies of the Sea quilted in the last 12 months.  It will be my last for a while.  The amazing applique artists that send me these quilts are wonderful, but I need a good 6 month break, This is a grueling 2-week quilt to quilt.  After a while the amount of detail work required to carefully quilt around each and every applique starts to make your back, arms and neck tired.  So if you are out there and think you want your's quilted, you can inquire with me, but it will be into 2017 before I actually will quilt it.

This is by one of the students of the person that did the 2nd one I quilted (see Dec 2015).  The applique and embroidery on this Ladies is absolutely phenomenal.  There's not a stitch to be seen, or a thread out of place.  It is THE kind of quilt I'd want to get if I were collaborating on a show quilt with somebody - no issues whatsoever! The hardest part of my job is determining what to do to make it different and unique from the others.  I made small tweaks from previous plans.
I introduced a lovely pink-purple variegated thread on the feather work to help tie the central part of the quilt to the stars in the corners.  From afar, the colors don't really show, but up close, it is this.
 The feathers create a lovely secondary pattern for the background, breaking up the fact that it is just sashed squares.
 The ship blocks are essentially the same as what I have done before.  It works, and I just could not reinvent this wheel in a better way.  Some quilts are like that.
 The variegated thread is also on the backfill around the mariner stars.
 I wish I could count the many hundred little dots that are on this quilt.  This is a mere small section of one border, and there are 42!  Too many!...
 And a few shots of the gorgeous backside...  The bobbin thread for the clear ditchwork is actually a sage green, and it shows the outline of everywhere I quilted beautifully.  Normally I choose a thread best matching the background fabric, but this time I ventured out!

That's all folks!...Have a good weekend

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Very Big News & some sneak peeks of a great quilt

This week brought a phone call I seriously hoped would come, but really never thought would.  Only a fool believes that they really will get THAT call.  OK, not a "fool", but a definite day-dreamer!  I'll admit, I definitely did day-dream a bit about this, but then was completely oblivious when the call actually arrived.  My Facebook friends already know this...My quilt Bouquet Royale is receiving one of the top 8 awards at the Houston quilt show in November!!
I sent it truly hoping it would just get accepted in the show.  With a nearly 50% rejection rate, you really never know.  All too often, quilts you believe should be in the show, do not make the jury cut. Then comes judging... Houston judging is like none other.  Now, I have had 3 quilts in the show prior to this year, so my experience is a bit limited, but I have talked to others who share similar stories. The 3 judges chosen are from all walks of the business.  One might favor art quilts, while one knows a lot about technical quilting.  You never know who is judging until the awards either.  My technical style has not always appealed to all judges.  Likewise, my color choices, which are very personal to me, have not either.  I kind of figured the renegade orange and lime green might be a turnoff.   Because I felt that I was maybe not judged as I'd like in the past, I chose not to make travel plans to attend the show.  I am teaching at MQX Midwest in mid-October instead.
I hoped that the judges would see past my colors and see the quilting, which to me is the essence of the quilt.  It is complex, and took forever to execute.  On November 1st, we will learn which of the 8 top awards this quilt will receive.  In actuality, there are really only 5 it could get, and they are all good monetary awards.  To top it all off, because it is a top-8 awards, Houston provides the transportation and hotel!!  I am going to Houston for 5 days afterall.  So if you are there, definitely find me and say hi.  I will be near the quilt some of the show for sure.
 No predictions, no secret wishes that I will share for the outcome.   Getting this far is pretty unexpected all by itself.

So...last week I showed a Ladies of the Sea that is currently now on my frame.  I spent all week (alright 14 hours - I had a few other distractions last week!) ditch stitching around the appliques.  I don't yet have any decorative quilting to show.  This quilt has the absolute BEST applique and detail embroidery I have seen.  How about a few peeks...
 The details on the shield and eagle's eye are amazing.  Likewise, she has a real map for this globe.
  All the ships have detail embroidery to make them more authentic.  See the tiny portholes?
 This picture is majorly blown up - This is all hand embroidery, not to mention the perfect tan fabric for a paint pallet and brush.

 Yesterday, I barely started on the details - the part you actually see.  I work hard to try to make all of these quilts be slightly different.  This one has pretty purple corner mariner stars, so I chose a bolder Aurifil variegated thread for some of the "show" quilting.  It will help tie the center of the quilt to the deep purple of the border and corners.  I'll finish up how these will look tomorrow.
 Here's a mariner's star.  The star itself is not done yet though.
In another week, I should have the entire quilt done and ready to show!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Two weeks later...

This is a gigantic Fire Island Hosta quilt, measuring in at 100"x106".  It is perfectly pieced, but immense.  Just the ditching of every pieced seam, which yes, I do...took a whopping 8 hours.  I think that the ditch stitching holds the perfect lines of the piecing.  It also allows me to ditch the entire quilt, and then go back with each individual color thread, rolling the quilt to where I want to be. Ditching is a great stabilizer, to the point where not that much other basting is needed.
 This has a single wool batt.  I used YLI polished poly and Glide threads in a variety of colors -- blues, white, peach.
 All of the fabrics on this quilt are non-prewashed batiks.  Now, this is not a bashing of the maker in any way shape or form.  Many, many people out there still choose for one reason or another not to prewash.  But, I want to try my hardest to convince you why you should change your ways.

Prewashing is good.  <>  Prewashing is good.
 When a quilt has fabrics that have not been prewashed (or presoaked), especially batiks, I absolutely refuse to premark the quilt.  THAT is something I like to do with monstrous quilts so that motifs can be symmetrical (and in case I forgot what I did 50" earlier!  Aquas and deep blues are some of the absolute hardest dyes to get to come out.  You can ask me how I know, but many of you read this blog 4 years ago when my Rainbow Nouveau quilt nearly bled into the non-usable realm.  I won't tough a batik without soaking it in very hot water for many hours, several times.
 One of the other things that happens with batiks -- and this is the one that sends most machine quilters to the hills screaming.  Sometimes, and this is a very unpredictable occurrence, these fabrics because they are supremely tight, can cause thread shredding and tension anomalies.  I have quilted many batik quilts this year, and I even let a few of the backings past my quality controller (normally I request no batik backs) - which caused no issues at all.  This quilt though tested every realm of calm I could muster.  Threads shredded.  Tension was periodically amuck.  And the kicker of them all, about a dozen broken needles.  The needle would hit a seam and just snap.  I just had my machine serviced and retimed a month ago, so this is not a welcome sight!  Luckily, I don't appear to have machine issues now.  The upshot is that because batiks are tight, it is very worth your while to prewash them because they do soften some.  I would even go so far as to say, use a regular cotton backing fabric too.  The Neimeyer quilts have many, many seams and thick intersections, which makes it even harder, as they are typically done in batik fabrics.
My issues translate to added time, mostly, which is not something I relish passing on to any customer. The end result is very gorgeous though.  She asked for dense custom, and definitely got it.  This is my favorite area... 
 The back is pretty too...

I knew I was forgetting something...Seven more hours to quilt a couple of matching pillow shams!  I took a couple days off after finishing the quilt to work on some class samples for next yr though (I call this sanity time!).

 No rest for the weary...Another (is this #5?) one of these is loaded and ready to start tomorrow.  This is definitely a 2-week project.  It will be good to have it out of the way before I go to MQX in 5 weeks though.
Happy Monday!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Back in the swing of things

With what feels like a wave of a wand, summer is over.  It is oddly September.  My kids went back to school last week.  I feel behind.  I am behind, but hopefully will do a little catch up in the next month.

Last week, or maybe the week before, with the prospect of a huge quilt going on my frame (you will see in a moment), I loaded up a couple of samples.  The first is one for my Dense & Dainty fillers class, which I will be teaching again at MQX Midwest next month.  I changed the background fabric as well as how I will approach teaching the fillers over the last show, and wanted to get a sample made that reflects the class project.
The fabric my April class used is this cute Arabesque print, which I also designed, but despite being unique and playful, and similar to my sample, it proved more challenging for some students to stick fillers into these spaces.  Hopefully, my change is a good one.
The other sample I made will go with my templates (aka "Ruler the Roost") class, and is actually for an article coming out next year.  It is all about the small circle templates that are available.  I love getting to "play", and just mindlessly quilt.  This is just a snippet of the sampler. 
 Earlier in August, my daughter and I had a day project -- yes, a quickie 1-day project to make a quilted donut pillow!  First we loaded up her piece of donut fabric.  She found this in Paducah, and I honestly had no idea what she would do with it.  It is quilted with easy straight lines -- channel locks to the rescue.  The quilting took her about 20 minutes.
Then I helped her cut up the minkie, and make velcro facings (whoops, just remembered we still need to add the velcro!), and she stitched these on her machine.
 At most an hour later...viola!...a finished soft & snuggly pillow.  Happiness.
I have started adding applique to these log cabin blocks.  The flowers are all pink and orange, and to keep them from totally blending into the logs, I have added a good bit of teal and shades of green. Hope it does its job.  Two down, three to go.  Then the wide appliqued borders.  Hope to get these actually designed on paper soon so I can have the pattern for prepping the appliques.  Too many other things eating away at my time lately!
That fact is not completely a bad thing though.  I had a couple days last week dedicated to "tidy up" on my next show quilt, which will debut at MQX Midwest next month.  I think it is done... How The Twisted Sister does is now out of my hands.
My baby turned 10 a week ago.  She always has crazy birthday cake ideas for me to make happen. Someday I will go back and post photos of all of them.
On Saturday, I took my 12 yr old away to the ocean for some one-on-one mom time.  We spent the afternoon climbing on the rocks at the ocean, and searching for treasures.  I put on 10000 steps, so it was no shabby workout either!
This ginormous 106" client quilt has been on my frame a week now.  She requested dense custom, and boy is that what I am quilting.  It might still have 2-3 more days left, and then I have 2 pillow shams to quilt.  I am at the point where my psyche is screaming "Get Me Done!".
 It's a busy month at the shows too, which I am trying hard not to think about.  I have 2 at the Wisconsin Quilt Expo, which is this week.  There are two at AQS Chattanooga, next week.  Then the week after there is another show.  Sometime in the next 2 weeks, we will hear about Houston awards.  I am really trying to forget that fact.  Early October is PIQF, another AQS show, then MQX.  It is busy!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Proud Moment

Just when I think I cannot possibly fathom having to quilt another Ladies of the Sea quilt (I do have 2 of these patiently awaiting me!), I get an email like I did today.  This is Robyn, and she's from Southern CA.  Her Ladies of the Sea quilt (on the rt) won Best of Show at the San Diego show.  The quilt on her left won a 2nd in Traditional Applique!  This show even pays the entrants a nice check. Many of my clients are so amazingly talented, and I am blessed to be trusted to quilt their masterpieces.  If you are in the area, it looks like this is a good show to visit the next two days.

Congratulations, Robyn, can't wait to see what you make next!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer's End

The next 2 quilts belong to a PA client.  As luck would have it, I actually got to her quilts while she was still in Maine on vacation, and she is scheduled to be picking them up tomorrow! 

This is a 62" Lone Star wall hanging (but then, that is probably kind of self explanatory!).  It has a cotton 80/20 batting because she requested less dense quilting.  I feared with wool it moght be too puffy to hang well.  Hopefully I did not over-quilt it.  She really prefers less.
 I'd tell you what thread I used, but I forgot!  I think it is an Omni.  This is a design I have done 8-10 times before.  They always turn out pretty.  There is something about the 8 setting squares that bring it all together.  Another nuance request was that I don't use "skinny, Victorian-styled" feathers.  She said she likes the fat kind.  Of all things, this was probably my most challenging.  I just.don' fat feathers.  They don't really adhere to my aesthetic.  None the less, I tried to make 'em fat,
 The diamond part of the star is quilted with simple continuous curves.  This makes a nice soft and drapable quilt.  Hopefully, she will be ok with the few sections where I put denser ribbon-candy and some fills.  Habits of loving dense fill are very hard to break.
 Her other quilt is a large (85x92) modern-ish pieced quilt.  It may be a pattern; I am not sure.  I love the sea-tone of all the mostly solid fabrics.  She wanted this one to be simple, and chose a clamshell pattern.  These are done with my 4" clamshell template, which is honestly a PAI to work with because it is on the large side.  I quilts up pretty quickly, though, despite being all template quilted.
 Here's another look...
My kids went back to school as of today, and work on the stockpiles of client customs are starting.  I have a huge (over 100") Fire Island Hosta quilt ready to load and get ditching on.  It will probably be there for 2 weeks!

I thought I'd show some of the progress on these log cabin blocks... I have the applique going in the 5 "circles" designed and prepped.  Because it is mostly orange and pink flowers, I thought the design needed a punch of another color.  Hopefully the teal will do just that.  This is now becoming my night-time project, and then I will get the floral applique designed that is going on the borders.
 Prep for my October MQX classes is wrapping up.  There is just one left to finish a presentation for.  That trip will be upon me before I know it.  It's a good thing that quilt I have entered is 99% finished!...The Twisted Sister, as I am calling her, just has a few places where I need to "touch up" the quilting.  In other words, I discovered some form of thread crap on the backside.  The places are very minor, but I have spent over 850 hours on this, and it is not worth decreasing my chances of doing well to be lazy now.
For those curious, the name "The Twisted Sister" came to me based on the twisted rope border I put on this.  It also has many of the same fabrics as my 2015 quilt (below) "Bouquet Royale.  Both have fussy-cut hexagons, in similar but different fabrics.  One are the Lucy Boston elongated style, while the current one is made from the traditional hexagons.  I used the champagne-colored silk on both, and a gorgeous bright green silk, which I got hand-dyed.  Just like real sisters, they are similar in many ways, and equally different in others.  Hopefully this quilt will be as successful as her sister (she's just a little bit more on the wild side)!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Big Finish

After the "flood" was dealt with last week, I got to work on this 104" gigantic batik quilt.  It belongs to a guild from NC, and they will be selling tickets in the coming year to raffle it off.  It is so large, though, that I found it a challenge to get a full photo taken in my hallway, but hopefully you get the idea.  There is a center lone star, and then 9 or 10 borders.
It was a "budget" total free reign to quilt as desired, but none the less I was able to give it some custom treatments to enhance the nice piecing.  It has a wool batting, and it is quilted with 40wt Glide and YLI polished poly threads.  I am not sure if the thread color is entirely visible, but I used a medium pink like the sashing on some of it, as well as a soft aqua.
This border of stars was initially going to get the E2E fill, but I decided to modify that play and put the pumpkin seed there instead.  The lighter fabric conveys the quilting nicely -- too well to just give it a filler.  I left he plain blue border and it's neighboring equilateral triangles for the E2E.  The previous photo is before I got the client's OK to go back and SID the perimeter of the stars.  I think that it was a worthy expense.  They are much crisper now.
 ...after ditching
This photo shows the outermost borders...rather than using very traditional/Victorian styled feathers on this, I did a couple of borders with a fernier style of fill.  This always seems to work well on batiks.  Plus, it is a faster motif to quilt when time is truly of the essence.
 I tried to make the center star be the show of the quilt.  There is more detail here.  I copied the continuous curves of the star border here again, and brought in the curved-crosshatching.
 It will be shipping home to the client Monday, and I hope she like it!