Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quilt for Alex

Alex would like me to finish this quilt and pop it in the mail to her before I leave for the midwest on Monday, so I have it all pinned up and ready to go and have done a bit of thinking before I actually take it to the machine.

My first decision was what to do with the center of the quilt. Should I treat it like the rest of the background, which will most likely be diagonally cross-hatched, or is that kind of a big space to leave as "just" background? The empty space measures around 6" diagonally in the center, but is then larger in the spaces between the appliqued blocks.

Got out a bunch of different stencils -- knew if I was going to put anything in there besides whatever background treatment chosen, it was going to be feathers -- and tried them to see how they would fit. This was the one that I liked the best that could be adapted not only for the center but as a frame for the applique.

This is a triangle shaped stencil, #HOL-342-08 from The Stencil Company. I'll have to move it around as I trace it to get the effect I want because, of course, I'm not really filling a triangle here.

Alex also stipulated that she didn't want to have to wash this quilt when I got done with it, so would I not mark with anything that had to be washed. This is an air soluble marker; they don't last a really long time, but it is fine for what I'm doing here. I will have to be more inventive with the rest of the quilt, though, because I can only mark what I can sit down and sew before the marks fade out. In other words, it's going to be a little tricky to pull off a feather border. But then these sorts of challenges sometimes turn out to have unforseeable, but delightful, consequences!

This is the design stitched out; the picture was taken from the back of the quilt. The bobbin thread is Mettler Silk Finish 100% Cotton, color #703, cream. The top thread is a Sulky 40 wt. rayon, #1071, off white.

After the center was completed, the top thread was swapped out for YLI Wonder invisible monofilament thread. This was used to outline each piece of applique just off the edge, giving it quilted texture, but not showing any thread other than that used to applique the pieces to the quilt top.

All the blocks are done and now I can contemplate the background -- do I really want to do that grid? Or is there another alternative?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gourmet Dinner at Dawna & Robert's

As each of the couples hosts their gourmet dinner, they get to pick the theme of the dinner as well as the food and beverages. We started out as a wine tasting group, and usually still are, but last night Dawna and Robert chose a St. Patrick's Day theme and accompanied the meal with beer tasting, instead.

Dawna always does such a pretty table setting -- she comes up with something totally different every single time, so I'm estimating she must have a couple of hundred sets of dishes. Funny, we have the same exact house plan, but I don't have that much storage space!

There's the pot of gold on the left and a charmingly placed book of photographs below...

Half of the place settings had the shamrock napkins and the other half were a creamy solid color...

I snooped around the kitchen a little before the first course was served -- on the left is a Sage Derby English cheese and the parsley in a crystal goblet was eye-catching...

The first course was a carrot and potato soup garnished with sour cream, the sage cheese and a baby carrot. I expected it to be cold, but it was hot and yummy! Robert made "Black & Tans" to accompany this course.

I think the hit of the evening was this lamb shaped butter; we all had to speculate that it must be sheep's milk butter, but it wasn't -- we made Dawna take out the wrapper to show us that it was cow's milk and then we all dove in for a taste. We have very spirited conversations about the food and drink at these meals!

Turkey medallions were slow cooked in beer and accompanied by roasted potatoes, onions, turnips and carrots. We dissected the lamb to liberally butter the vegetables. Guiness was served with this main course.

Couldn't really get a good picture of a complete dessert because it smelled so good that we all fell on it as soon as the dishes hit the table. The apple-rhubarb crisp inspired a lot of conversation because we had very different opinions about crisp at the table. Half of us want a lot of fruit with some crisp and the other half just find the fruit part annoying and don't quite see the point of including it in the recipe. I think it was stated as "eating the yukky fruit part first to get to the crisp".

To complete the Irish theme, this was the liqueur served with dessert. It was a little strong for me (which was kind of funny considering I'm a Chivas-on-the-rocks drinker), but I absolutely loved the label on the bottle!

Next month is our turn again -- hmmmm......a theme for April.......

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Test Driving the New Class

Yesterday I taught my new workshop for the first time; there were four people in the class, able and willing to critique the supply list, handouts and demo technique and timing. After I do this "bullet-proofing" session, I know the workshop is ready to go out on the road. I was very pleased with the day; their suggestions were to add three items to the supply list, including a quarter-inch foot and the darning foot, both of which I had assumed everybody would just carry around with them to this type of class. That's why this type of trial run is so invaluable; things get pointed out that a teacher might just overlook.

The first hour and a half of class was spent piecing the quilt top; loved that Anne Marie's blue iron matched her fabric choices!

After the tops were pieced, I did a demonstration of the trapunto technique, using the pink fabric as an underlay for the butterfly.

Anne Marie's top after the trapunto stitching was done and the excess batting cut away.

Karen chose Asian fabrics; at left, she's tracing the motif on her blocks. Below, she's cutting away the batting so that just the motif will be puffy.

The cutting is definitely the "bottleneck" in this technique; it took longer for them to cut the polyester away than to piece the top. Getting the timing down for a class is crucial -- the tops were pieced quicker than I had planned for, which left more time at the end of class to talk about variations and stippling techniques.

Karen's top after trimming; her fabric selections were especially interesting. The white fabric is a semi-sheer tone on tone, which gives a totally different look to the trapunto. Bolts in the Bathtub was out of the fabric, but Dawna is going to try to order more. I want to get some and play with it a bit....

I've known the other three people in class for a few years, but Sheryl was new to me and identified herself as a "newbie". However, she was the first one to finish the piecing and she was ready for the quilting by the end of the day. Her peachy-coral accent fabric was actually a print; it really showed through the white nicely.

Sheryl's quilt top is laid out on the batting, ready to pin up; her thread choices are below: a variegated King Tut for the border and the quilting around the motif, peach for the background of the colored blocks and white for the paler blocks.

This is Vickie's top -- I really liked the batik sashing she chose and the blue accent fabric shows through the white well....

And, of course, the April pillowcase! Destiny stopped by the shop in the morning to pick it up from me; she's on Spring break next week and on her way to Cabo San Lucas with her mom and dad. Destiny is not with me when I buy the fabrics, so every pillowcase is a mini-surprise. I love making these for her; seeing how she likes the seasonal fabric choices has made this particular gift giving tradition fun for both of us....

Now to get my supply list corrections to the two shops where I will be teaching Positive/Negative (Shiisa Quilts in Bloomington IN on April 9 and Sew From the Heart in Scottsdale AZ on May 4) -- judging from the reaction of my workshop testers, this is going to be a very popular class! Hooray!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Very Small Sneak Peak....

I have to say, I absolutely LOVE this quilt and wish I could spoil the whole surprise and show it to you! But I am sworn to secrecy -- the quilt will be in one of the fall issues of Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson's The Quilt Life magazine. Alex told me that she did drop a wee hint on The Quilt, so you might look for it there?

But I will show you a couple of things -- this pretty tan on cream toile is the backing....

and these are the binding and sleeve fabrics.

It's going to be so hard to share what I'm doing while hiding the quilt -- what a challenge!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finishing Up "Smoke on the Water"

Do you ever wonder what happens to all the minutes in your day? I spend lots of time on the phone, on the computer, at the post office, UPS, etc. -- in other words, running my business! And some days, I just never get to the sewing machine at all...

A couple of days ago, Alex called to tell me that she was sending me another quilt that needed to be done quickly for the magazine. My thought was that now that I finally decided how to finish up the quilt that I'm presently working on for her, I'd better get it out before the new one came in....

This was the design that I decided on to frame the picture created by the flames and water. It is a fairly simple braid design in a 4-1/4" width, #271 from JD Stencils. Stencils can be ordered online and often you will see Joe and Darlene in their booth at the larger quilt shows.

My only concern with this design is that it may not be enough quilting to balance what has already been quilted; I may have to add a bit more quilting to the braid to make it work.

Because I have such distinctly different backing fabrics, I am going to use two different bobbin threads but one top thread. I'll continue with the two bobbin threads I used for the rest of the quilting; the top thread is Sulky 40 wt. rayon, color #2206, a blend of turquoise and coral that I think will be perfect! I always try the threads out on a sample first to see if they are playing well together; if not, I can make some changes.

The doorbell just rang -- it's FedEx delivering that new quilt top from Alex! It's a hush hush, but I may give you an itty bitty sneak peak in the next day or so....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happiness is an Organized Pantry!

My pantry is (now, was!) one of the piggiest places on the planet -- things were rotated pretty frequently, but nothing was easy to find and there were cans, bottles, bags and boxes all over the floor full of things that I couldn't find a home for on the shelves. When I was at my friend Terry Wojciehowski's for the sewing retreat the end of January, I was SO jealous when I saw her organized pantry.

She told me her daughter Brittany did it for her and I offered the kid the job on the spot -- so she stayed with us this weekend and almost immediately got to work putting things in order.

I was upstairs sewing; she had the pantry cleaned out really quick and had already wiped down some shelves and put some stuff back in by the time I got downstairs with my camera.

But even with everything she had replaced, all of this still had to go in....

I honestly didn't think it would all fit, but here's the maestro showing off the finished job!

Does this look great or what? And everything is arranged by usage -- soups with soups, baking things with baking things -- what a concept!

And now for the bonus round -- Brittany's got half the stuff out of the fridge! Goody, goody, can't wait!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Smoke on the Water, continued...

Got all the "fire" part of "Smoke on the Water" done, but definitely need some water in the blue areas. As an aside, I wonder how Alex feels about my naming the quilt for her!

Close-up of the flames.....

This sashiko stencil from The Stencil Company (#SCL-030-12) will work perfectly for the water, now I just have to choose my threads.

On the left are the two variegated threads from Superior Threads that will work well in the top of the machine -- for the darker areas, King Tut #935, a blend of turquoise/purple/green/blue; and Rainbows #815, a trilobal polyester in shades of blues and greens. The thread on the right is a Mettler Silk Finish 100% cotton thread in #563, a vivid blue that I have seen recently called Aegean.

Now to the machine!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Santa Clarita Guild Wrap-Up

At the Santa Clarita guild workshop on Saturday, I showed the group some freehand feathers I had done the day before. I have done other freehand designs, but feathers are new to me and this was the first time I had tried them.

I was pretty happy with my feathers until one of the ladies sat down and whipped this out!

In my book, she wins -- what do you think? Obviously, I need to practice a bit......

I had breakfast with Paula Fleischer yesterday and she brought the quilt top that I had photographed. I posted the picture of the whole top, but my close-ups were blurry. But she was willing to haul it to breakfast so I could take care of that. Couldn't make up my mind between these really cool hand embroidered circles, so took a few!

I also took a picture of the border because I thought it was pretty fun, especially the way she handled the corners. Paula is going to hand quilt this and we were kicking around some ideas for how she might do it? She had thought of crosshatching the backgrounds; I thought about imprecise circles or spirals -- do you have any idea that I could forward to her?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conejo Valley Quilters -- Thousand Oaks CA

Yesterday afternoon I drove about 85 miles to Thousand Oaks to have dinner with my friend, Jake Finch, and do a lecture and trunk show for the Conejo Valley Quilters. As with most of the southern California guilds, it was a great opportunity to see old friends again as well as to meet quilters who were new to me.

The above quilt was made by Sandy Turner and was the sample that she sent for the Birds in the Air workshop that she will be teaching for this guild in May. Sure sent me running for my calendar to see if I'm back in town by then; I would love to take that workshop if there are any seats left after the guild members sign up.

Ways and Means had two whole tables of prizes with bright colored bags next to each one. You buy your tickets and then distribute them into the bags for the prizes you want to win. Each prize is awarded to the winning ticket drawn from the appropriate bag. I zeroed in on the prize with the most action -- the fabric and book on the left will be used in next month's workshop, which will be taught by Gwen Marston.

The philanthropic table was loaded with precut kits all ready for quilts to be assembled to be given away. In my lecture, I talked about making a lot of these while I was teaching myself to machine quilt. The recipients love them, you get your practice hours in at practically no cost for materials, and you get your early work out of the house so you can think you always were an expert -- no downside to any of that!

The rag quilt hanging on the wall behind the philanthropic table is an example of some of the quilts that this guild makes and gives away. This one is specifically made for Alzheimer's patients and is made of a lot of different types of fabrics so that the patients can touch them and feel the various textures.

I wasn't able to get very many pictures of the show and share quilts. This is a pretty consistent problem in that the people showing their quilts tend to be pretty animated and the pictures come out blurry! But I was able to get a couple this time:

I love this appliqued quilt that Debbie made and brought to show! It will be auctioned off next month and the funds will benefit breast cancer research...

...had to get a close-up so that you could see all of the quilting!

This lady was explaining that this quilt had been started with the idea that the color scheme would be pastels! You mean, they aren't? The back was fun, too....

The last picture came out blurry, but I had to put it in anyway. This appliqued block is so beautiful and expresses a number of the maker's interests: hiking, music, reading, etc. Just couldn't leave it out!

So now I'm home for almost three weeks before my next teaching trip, which will be to Indiana, Ohio and Illinois -- can't wait!!
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