Monday, January 31, 2011

Choosing A Quilting Design

I have just emerged from 6 days of machine quilting.   Choosing the design for free motion quilting is pretty challenging for me.  I am pretty good at meandering or stippling which is like wiggle waggling all over the quilt.  Th goal is to keep the stitches even and the curves smooth.  I have used this method to quilt many quilts, so now I look for other types of quilting designs that make it a little more challenging.

I am always looking for sources for ideas.  There is a great blog, by Leah Day.  Her goal is to create a new quilting pattern every day for 1 year.  I believe she is on design # 240.  Here are thumbnails of the designs thus far.  She also posts videos so you can see how she does each one.  I have ordered her book,   From Daisy To Paisley that has 50 beginning designs that I really like.  The other books that I like are:
Mindful Meandering   by Laura Lee Fritz
Freehand Filler Patterns by Sue Patten
72 More Ways Not to Stippl or Meander  by Dijanne Cevaal
Machine Quilting Solutions by Christine Maraccini

When I have a new project to quilt and I do not know what design I am going to use, first I sit down with these books.  I look through them to try to ignite a few ideas.  Then I open my FMQ notebook to a fresh page and I start doodling with a pen or pencil.  I start with the original inspiration and see what it morphs into.  I need to be comfortable with the design to be able to do it in a repetitious manner all over my quilt top.    Very rarely does my final design end up looking anything like the ones in the book.

Sometimes  I start quilting and end up not liking it at all.  Some quilters have told me that they like to see mistakes or mis-steps as I like to call them.  So I will share my mis-step.  For  one section of the quilt, I decided to use echo quilting. 
I just wasn't happy with the way it looked.  
I ripped it out. 
I ended up stippling.

This is the finished  quilt.  I've named it Filigree Fantasy.  It measures 60"x 60".  
I am relieved and thrilled that it is done. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Can't I Finish That Project?

The snow and the quilting of my latest quilt have conspired to keep me housebound.  I have not left my house since Tuesday night.  Today is Saturday.  I finished this quilt top in the Fall and I want to take it off my "To Do"  list. I really love it, so what's the problem?

What keeps us from finishing a project?  If we ignore time constraints, I think it is degree of difficulty, lack of direction, not enough knowledge and fear. This applies to many things in life.  In this case, it applies to my quilt top and it includes all of the above reasons. The easy things are what we do first.  It makes me feel so good  to accomplish items on my "To Do" list.  I even put little boxes in front of each item and put a big check mark there when I am done.  I tick off the easy things, 1-2-3 and then it gets harder and harder to go down the list.

Lee Cleland wrote a book called Quilting Makes the Quilt.  I have to say that the antithesis of that saying is that quilting can ruin a quilt. This is my biggest fear.  I gave up hand quilting years and years ago.  It just takes too darn long.  Many people who are not quilters think that quilting with a sewing machine is cheating and it makes the quilting a  piece of cake.  I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Is it hand quilted?"  I am here to tell you that quilting by machine is a skill unto itself.  It certainly does reduce the amount of time required, but it is in no way easy.

Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) adds another dimension.  It is like doodling with your sewing machine.  You put on a special foot, drop your feed dogs and away you go.  There are no rules and there are no lines to follow.  Your hands move the quilt and your foot controls the speed. Picking a doodle to quilt that complements your fabric design is another difficult step.   When the quilting is going well, it's like a beautiful dance.  When it is not going so well, you can make quite a mess.  It is stressful to say the least.  So there is the potential to ruin a beautiful quilt top that you have spent days/weeks sewing.  Procrastinate?  You bet.

And I am blogging because?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow Has To Be Good For Something

This is definitely a crazy idea.  Using snow to dye fabric?  I think I have become housebound due to this cold weather, because I am thinking about it.  For the last few years, this has been a very popular topic each winter among the the art quilting groups and those who like to dye fabric.  Sounds like a way to cure the winter doldrums. So even though originally  I was not that intrigued by it, with all the snow we have been having and after spending so many days organizing my studio (although I am not done yet) and sewing sleeves onto my quilts, I decided to have a little fun.  As most of you know who have been following my blog, I do love dyeing.  So add me to the list of adventuresome fabric dyers. 

  So yesterday morning, I washed my fabric with Synthropol and then soaked it in a soda ash solution (1 Cup/gallon of water) for about 1/2 hour.  In case you have not done it before and are considering dyeing fabric, this is THE most critical step.  The soda ash changes the pH to make the dye "stick" to it.

For the dyes, I dissolved 1 Tbsp in 1/2 cup warm water.  After doing some research, I read that commercial dye mixtures were the ones to use because the colors separate with snow dyeing.  This supposedly is what gives the final product the unique coloration.  I did not use any of the pure dyes.

After soaking, I put 1/2yd pieces in the plastic containers in a loose, scrunchy kind of way. 

Then I covered them with snow.

 For the containers using 3 dyes, first I drizzled horizontally.

 Then I drizzled the second dye vertically.

And then I added the 3rd dye by drizzling it diagonally.  The first 2 containers on the left were done with 3 different dyes.  The 2 containers on the right were single dyes.

This is what the 2nd container looked like close up. I think this is beautiful.

I poured the first dye vertically.  Then I added the second dye horizontally and the third dye diagonally.

The containers were left to sit overnight at room temperature.  Surprisingly, it took over 6 hours for all the snow to melt.  In the morning, this is what I found.
The excess dye was poured off and the fabric was rinsed in cold water.  Then washed in the washing machine with Synthropol and hot water. 

And the results:
Mixture of Periwinkle, Orchid and Sky Blue
Mixture of Orange Rust, Mustard and Avocado
A lot of dye went down the drain using this method.  I thought the fabric was beautiful.  I'm not sure I would do it again, but I might if next winter leads to this copped up feeling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quilting Chores

There are 2 things that most quilters hate to do.  One is putting a label on the back of their completed quilt to document it.  The other is putting a sleeve on the back which is used for hanging.  Both of these are chores.  I think they have become chores because the fun and enjoyable part of making the quilt is done.

I have conquered the labeling step.  It is no longer a chore to me.  I use my computer's word processing program and type the name of the quilt, my name, the date and my location.  Sometimes, I add a piece of clip art that may be relevant.  This is then printed onto a fabric that is specially treated to be colorfast. Then I may border it out with fabric and put a fusible web on the back.  After fusing it to the quilt back, I stitch around it.   (If I add it before the quilt is quilted, I can stitch around it by machine before the quilt is layered with the top and batting.  If it is after, I stitch around the label by hand so that I do not go through all the layers.)

 But I have not found a pleasant way to attach the sleeve.  Now multiply that by 18 and I think you can feel my misery.  My chore for the last 2 days was to put sleeves on all my Quilt Fiesta quilts.   I threw myself on the mercy of some of the women who have quilts in the book
to add their own sleeves.  So instead of 18 quilts, I only had to do it for the 12.  All of this in preparation for the Open House where all of the quilts from the book will be hung.

I found a beautiful spoon rest for the refreshments while cruising the aisles at Home Goods.  The color was perfect and the polka dots were wonderful.  I found that this spoon rest made me smile when I used it as a pin holder while sewing on all those sleeves. 

To put a sleeve on a quilt, I first cut a strip of fabric that extends the width of the quilt minus 2".  Since I don't know where my quilts will be exhibited, I cut it 10" deep.  If it was only to hag in my house, I would have cit it 5" deep. 

 The next step is to finish the 2 ends of the opened tube by folding in 1/2" to the wrong side on each end.  Then stitch it down.  Make the tube by folding it in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and stitch. Place it along the top edge, just under the binding, leaving about an inch on either side
Hand stitch the sleeve just under the binding, making sure you
don't go through to the top of the quilt.

Then fold up the sleeve so that it is even with the top of the quilt.  While holding it there, smooth out the rest of the sleeve and pin along the bottom edge.

Hand stitch along the bottom edge.

To hang the quilt, I like to use either a dowel or a 2" wooden slats that are cut to the width of the quilt,  And then I use shoulder hooks, hidden behind the quilt, for the slat to rest on.

So my 2 days worth of putting sleeves on my quilts gave me a nice
big pile of quilts ready to hang. 

I'm so glad I'm done.  What's the next item on my list?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Valentine Iteration #2

5 1/2 "W  x  8 1/2"  W

Our quilt guild has an auction each Spring  to raise money to support our community outreach and our programs.   Each year I try to offer a class as an auction item.  I think this beaded heart will be my offering this year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Work

  For the bus ride to NYC, I needed some hand work, so I designed this piece. 
It measures 12"Hx9"W.
My inspiration came from the upcoming Valentine's Day.

 Would you be interested in a tutorial?

Monday, January 17, 2011


I have tried to be mindful of my list of New Year's intentions -at least for the month of January.  I have cousins who live in NYC who I have not seen in years.  One of them sends me a birthday e-mail every year.  So as I get older and the numbers of living relatives diminishes, I thought this was the right time to reconnect.

I have wanted to try the Bolt Bus from Philly to Manhattan for a couple of years.  The prices are amazing.  The tickets seem to range in price from $10-13 each way depending on when you buy your tickets and the day.  They even have one $1 ticket for each bus.  This is dirt cheap.  Buying your tickets ahead of time guarantees you a seat.  So that was my transportation choice.  It was clean, comfortable, fast and easy.  The bus actually arrived 15 minutes early.  Definitely a winner.

I have to say that I was a little worried about whether or not we would have enough to talk about.  Would we run out of things to say?  No way!  And I was treated to a delicious New York corned beef sandwich.  Thank you Jody, my cousin and my new friend.

And it is such a coincidence that we have become book authors simultaneously. Based on her professional experience, Jody Spiro has spent 2 years of her life writing  Leading Change  Step-By-Step.   It's even available for your Kindle. Although written for management level educators and business leaders is also apropos for making changes in our own lives.  I just ordered a copy from Amazon.  Check it out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Check Out My Rick Rack Now!

The response to my post about my rick rack mess was overwhelming.  I was so impressed how  many of you are so organized.  It is definitely not my strong suit.  Among the many comments and e-mails was one from my DIL, Olivia.  She wanted to come and help me.  Who knew she was passionate about this sort of thing?  How could I not accept her help?

Olivia arrived around noon with an armload full of stuff.  She brought lunch!  Yum. 

Crab cakes,  a salad with almonds, pear and poppy seed dressing 
and a Key Lime tartlet to share for dessert.

And she brought me these adorable earrings. 

I know one thing that I will be wearing for my Book Open House.

Then it was down to work.  Olivia showed me how she organizes her ribbons.

I was blown away.  This notebook was just beautiful.  She had taken a piece of cardboard and covered it with a beautiful piece of paper and so-ordinated her ribbon colors.  The outside of the binder was beautiful too.  I had to be honest with myself and her at this point.  We could spend the day making my ribbons look as beautiful as hers, but I could not keep it so organized. 

Another option she brought was to use cardboard rectangles and one of those photo boxes.  Olivia brought all of the supplies.  She bought the photo box at The Christmas Tree Shoppe for $2.00.  (Just an aside.  Olivia turned me onto this store.  I had never been in to one, because I don't celebrate Christmas.  When we were visiting her at college a few years ago, we went shopping.  They need to rename this store.  It is packed with all kinds of stuff - cheap.  I describe it as a dollar store on steroids.)

I got out my drawer full of tangled rick rack.  Her expressions was priceless as she said "It didn't look like that much ion the photo on your blog". 
We sorted by color and started wrapping.  Of course I had lots of blue rick rack and ribbon. 
It looked so beautiful.
It took us about 4 hours to get all of the trims wrapped.  

And when we were done, that messy drawer full of stuff, all fit into that photo storage box!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Am Proud To Be A Quilter

I am proud to be a quilter.  We have this opportunity to use our skills to help others. The public is willing to spend money to buy one of our creations to support a cause.
This is not a new phenomenon.  It has been going on for centuries. Dating back to the Civil War, quilts were used to raise funds for the soldiers.  People would pay as much as 10 cents to put their signature on a quilt.  Raffle tickets were then sold to the quilt to raise even more money.

This tradition of creating quilts and selling raffle tickets has continued.  Almost every quilt guild has some type of charity that they support.  The funds usually come from selling tickets for a special raffle quilt that guild members have made.  Women's shelters are one of the most popular types of organizations that guilds like to support with part of the proceeds.

I have been involved in creating quilts to raise funds for some of the local private schools.  These quilts were sold in an auction type setting.  Parents love to bid on things that contain their child's signature.  The quilt included photos of the students and the girls also signed pieces of their jeans that I used for the flower petals.  This quilt brought over $2500 at their annual fundraiser.

Virgina Spiegel took the concept of using quilts to raise funds to a whole new level.  She started Fiberart For A Cause(FFAC) to raise money for The American Cancer Society.  I remember seeing a wall of fiberart postcards being sold at one of the major quilt shows.  You could choose whichever one you wanted  for a donations of $30 each.  After raising over $200,000 (yes $200,000) for The American Cancer Society, FFAC has been retired. Not being able to rest on her laurels, she is hosting a one day event called ONE.  Feb 16th is the date.  You can get more info by clicking  here.

Ami Simms is another woman who has brought quiltmaking to another level as a fundraiser. She started the  Alzheimer's Art Quit Initiaitive (AAQI) to raise funds and awareness.  She says never underestimate the power of a woman and a needle.  Through her organization, more than $400,000 for Alzheimer's research has been raised. 

So what motivated me to write this post?  The horrible floods in Australia has brought out the benevolence of more quilters.  The immediacy of blogging has led some quilters to use their talent and offer some of their creations as a fundraiser to help those that have lost everything, on their blogs.

So where else can you do something that you love so much, in the privacy of your home, sometimes in your pajamas in the middle of the night, creating something that can end up helping so many people?  I am proud to be a quilter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Quick Post

Yesterday I was given a great link by Kristyn to help me with organizing my rick rack.  I was so impressed and knew that some of you organizational aficionados would love it, that I wanted to sharnever would have thought of so many different ways to organize ribbon.  A new tip every Monday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Need Help

I have been chipping away at my studio a little bit at a time. 
Today, I finally finished organizing and folding my cotton fabric. 
I think it looks very nice.  I hope I can keep it that way.

 The next area to tackle is my drawer full of my beloved rick rack and trims.  
It is a huge mumbo jumbo mess.  Help????

Any suggestions for how to deal with this?  I will entertain any and all ideas.  And if I use your idea, maybe I'll share some with you, like  a  finder's fee!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Today's The Day!

Woo Hoo!! Todays' the day.   It's my book release date.  
I am doing a huge happy dance.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Mexican Cupcakes

I am starting to plan the food for the Open House.  I found this great recipe for Cinnamon Vanilla Cupcakes with a Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream frosting on the  Cupcake Rehab website that I think would be perfect.  Click on this link to get there.   It sounds yummy. 

I am planning on making a bunch of mini- cupcakes. I found these great mini cupcake liners on etsy.  I ordered them yesterday  from Bakers Confection in lime and teal to match the cover of my book.   They have the most adorable cupcake liners.

This is my favorite color.
I love polka dots.

I made a half batch of the cupcakes.  It made 48 mini ones.
I haven't tried the frosting yet.  It is spiced with cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder and coffee.  I can't wait to try it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Save the Date

I am excited beyond my wildest dreams.  January 11th, which is 5 days from now, is the release date for my book.  The books are sitting in Martingale's warehouse right now.  I want to go there and see them. A crazy thought since they are located all the way on the other side of the country in Washington state.  I have ordered 3 cases, but they cannot ship them until the release date.

To celebrate my first book, I thought I would like to have a coming out party.  I wanted to share my quilts with food and drink.  Researching different locales was a lot of fun, but not very productive.  Either I couldn't serve alcohol or I couldn't sell my book or it was waaaaaaay too expensive. 

One of my sons suggested having it at home, like an open house.  That way I could do whatever I wanted.  Hmmmmmm.  It took a few days to wrap my brain around that one.  If we removed all of the furniture from the first floor, I could hang all of my quilts like a gallery.  I could serve any food that I wanted, have my books available and a bonus would be that I could open up my studio for visitors.  As Jim Carey would say, "Alrighty then".  Let's get to work.

The date has been chosen - Sunday, February 20th, 11AM-6PM.  We're working on the menu, I'm working on my studio (note the last post) and I had a bunch of postcard invitations printed.  So if you're in the Philadelphia area, stop in to join the celebration, see the quilts,
have a bite to eat and maybe buy a book.  And if you would like a bunch of postcards to pass out, drop me an e-mail.

Check out my first purchases for my coming out party.  I love the lady with the sombrero.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Studio Makeover

 It all started with a new TV.  I have to admit, I'm a TVaholic.  The house is just too quiet with out it.  I spend a lot of time in my studio and it's on all the time I am there.  Some people listen to music.  Some people listen to books on tape.  Some people enjoy the peace and quiet.  I need the TV.  It is usually just background noise.  But I have to also confess that I watch/listen to a lot of those reality shows.  I know those housewives.  I love looking for houses in international countries.  And when Niecey Nash goes in to Clean a House, my jaw drops over the mess.  I do draw the line though.  I can't watch Snooky at The Jersey Shore.  I can't watch The Hoarders.  A girl has to to have some standards!

After Christmas sales on electronics were fabulous.  I saw this sweet little 22" flat screen TV with a built in DVD player.  The price was right.  And I could buy it on line without having to fight the crowds at the store.

First, I removed the old TV with layers and layers of dust.  I knew it was time for a studio makeover.  My priorities were a place for my books and storage underneath my oversized ironing board.

I made a trip to IKEA.  Their furniture is amazing.  The designers and engineers who create this stuff are brilliant.  The instructions and details are amazing.  I found this bookcase that wasn't too high.  I also found this cabinet for underneath my ironing board with sliding doors.  I love hidden storage. But that unit took me over 3 hours to put together and was more of a workout than my morning 5 mile walk.

The top of the bookcase was perfect for my new TV.  It was amazing how quickly it got filled up.  There's still room, but I have a boatload of magazines.

 And I really do love my new ironing board base.  Those sliding doors are great.
 On the right side I was able to fit 2 sewing machines and my wheelie 
with my digital projector.
On the left side, I was able to put my bead storage box, my toolbox and a few other bins.  It looks like there's room for a few more things. 

I'm so happy how that part of my studio makeover turned out.  
Now I have to keep going AND keep the section I already did neat and tidy.