Sunday, July 27, 2008

My newest personal quilt

My chosen profession is "quilter for hire" - which simply means that I assist others in finishing their quilt tops by utilizing my A-1 Elite Professional Longarm Quilting Machine. All my quilting is hand guided, which by definition means I don't have a computer hooked up to the machine to quilt hands free. My hands are very busy! Either following a designer pattern with the laser light (called a pantograph or panto for short) or being creative with my own combination of designs. It's all fun. With the end goal of "finished is good."

I have been quilting on longarm machines since my hands-on three day workshop with Linda Taylor (national longarm quilting teacher and award winning quilter) in September 2003. I later rented a longarm at a "not so local" dealer's establishment (I drove 60+ miles one way) during the summer of 2004 until the summer of 2005. It was October 2005 before I was blessed with my own machine in my own little studio. The rest, they say, is history!

Have I mentioned that I love quilting? It's my passion - well, next to my relationship with Jesus Christ, my husband, my two adult sons and my forever puppy Pixxie - and in that order! I truly do loving quilting. Every aspect. From the searching for just the right pattern, to the selection of the fabric, to the cutting out of the block elements (well, that's not exactly my favorite part, but it's a necessity), to the piecing together of the blocks, to the ah-ha moment when the blocks come together as the body of the quilt, oh and then it's time to add borders and next is my all time favorite part - loading it on my quilting machine to add the fancy stitchin'

As a "quilter for hire" I don't have a lot of time for personal quilts, but I DO make time! I try to set aside Sunday afternoons, after my time of worship and occasional extended family dinner, to piece or quilt for myself. Sometimes I just need to take a nap -- but if at all possible I try to quilt.

By the way, "quilt" has lots of meanings. Sorta like "love". I love pizza, I love Pixxie, and I love my husband Johnny. The word quilt can refer to piecing a top, adding the stitches that hold it together, or to the completed three layer masterpiece destined to be an heirloom. Some people call quilts blankets, but that's only because they don't know any better. A blanket is something you purchase at Walmart for $39. A quilt is a work of art. A one of a kind creation, created totally out of love and generally designed with a person or particular sentiment in mind. But back to my ramblings on my personal time to quilt....

As a gift to myself on Mother's Day, after my husband and the boys grilled out juicy hamburgers and assisted me in the clean up, I decided it was my day to quilt! I had chosen a new pattern from Jodi Barrow's Square in a Square pattern book "Abby's Schoolhouse". It was perfect to utilize the 2.5 inch strips I had been collecting from previous quilting projects and my addiction to fat quarters (by the way, a fat quarter is sometimes called quilter's candy - it's a small 18 x 22 cutting from a larger bolt of fabric, enabling the addicted quilter to purchase a variety of fabric designs in smaller doses at a smaller price - depending of course on how disciplined you are in just getting a few at a time, similar to enjoying a handful of colorful M & M's instead of just one solid single colored bar of dark chocolate, somehow you just don't think you've eaten as much!)

So here I was on Mother's Day with a fabulous pattern in mind (in her book it's called Bachelor's Puzzle), armed and dangerous with my rotary cutter (ask me how dangerous this fabulous tool can be!), with my collection of fabric strips, a smokin' needle in the sewing machine and I was off! It took several Sundays to piece and trim the 100 SnS (Square in a Square) diamond blocks - not because they were hard, but because my time was limited. How hard it is to sew 2.5 inch strips to the sides of a diamond? NOT! Just mindless chain piecing bee-boppin' away with the iPod and my favorite tunes. Then with the assistance of my official Square in a Square ruler and my instructions for Option 33, I trimmed up those basic blocks to what is sometimes called a snowball diamond block - all the while I never cut or sewed a triangle! Did I mention that I'm hooked on Square in a Square hooked, as a matter of fact, that I'm a certified instructor - but that's another rambling for a future visit...

I do believe that I used over 300 fabrics. Actually I KNOW I used over 300 fabrics! The 100 blocks had the opportunity to use 5 different fabrics. I kept the centers a neutral "background tone on tone" but even these weren't all the same, making it scrappy too. Taking out the consideration of center fabric that leaves 400 opportunities to use a different print. I lost count at 300 and somewhere in between 300 and 400 I started repeating prints. GASP! Oh well, somewhere the "they sayers" have declared that a scrap quilt isn't a scrap quilt unless it has at least 75 prints, so I guess I was safe! Repeats are allowed I do believe.

Finally it came time to piece the partial piano key border and add it to the body of the quilt. My first "ah-ha" moment. I was soooo pleased. It was indeed colorful and full of "a few of my favorite things" - for in this quilt I have scraps from some of my first quilts, from quilts I made as prayer quilts for friends going through difficult times, there was scraps from the tissue cover holders I made as a thank you for the leaders in my church's women's ministry (since women seem to cry a lot at retreats and such I thought that an appropriate gift), there were fabrics from the quilt I made my mother on her 70th birthday, scraps from a quilt my youngest son (then 19) made himself (complete with quilting it I might add), scraps from fat quarter sales at the local quilt shop....can ya'see where this is going? Memories. Quilts are full of memories!

A few Sundays later it's time to put my quilt on the frame. Mind you, a custom quilt can't be quilted in a single day, or at least this quilter doesn't do that, can't rush the artist at her to allow for the creative flow my machine is equipped with what is called "zippered leaders". Simply put, I can pin my quilt backing to these leaders, layer and baste my batting along with my pieced top, begin quilting and at any given moment for any reason I can unzip the quilt in progress and load a different quilt. This comes in handy when I need to "punch in" and go back to work on Monday mornings with customer quilts. Next Sunday (my day off) I just zip it back on and go to town!

So progressed the quilting of "A Few of My Favorite Things". A Sunday here, a Sunday there. A slow, but joyful process. The quilting is all free-hand - no stencil, no pattern, just from memory and free flowing creativity based on a fabulous workshop I had with Jamie Wallen, a national longarm quilting teacher (mentor and friend). He calls the design 'flurry feathers' and I just love reproducing them. Feathers, feathers, feathers, all over my quilt of memories. What joy. what bliss. I love my Sunday afternoons. (Actually I love every day that I'm quilting...but for now we're talking about Sunday afternoons).

Finally, on Sunday July 13th my beautiful quilt (beautiful to me that is) had completed the "quilting" process. All three layers (did I mention that I dearly love wool batting! more on this another time) were securely held together with the stitching from my A-1 and all that was left was to trim and add the binding. Which by the way, adds a whole new dimension to the quilt.

If you are keeping track, that's a whole lot of Sunday afternoon quilting for this latest creation. But it's worth it! In between are countless hours of customer quilts, attending quilt guilds, getting my hair done, going to the chiropractor...oh..I'm sorry, I'm suppose to be rambling about my newest personal quilt, not my busy life between Mother's Day and July 13th..As I was saying, all that needed to be done was the binding.

Somewhere during the following week of busyness I managed to trim the quilt and machine attach to one side the purple binding that matched the purple in the border. My plans were to finish the hand stitching on the final side by my birthday, 7/23, to continue in the tradition I started in 2005 -- to make a birthday quilt each year. Since we were going on vacation with extended family (7/19-7/26) to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho in celebration of my birthday as well as my mother-in-law's and my nephew's birthdays, I knew I just had to take this quilt with me in order to finish it on time! Besides, I learned on 7/13 that the Stanley Idaho had a low of 32 degrees and I'm used to 105 in the shade - I think I needed my birthday quilt on my vacation!

And that, my new hopefully soon to be faithful readers, is where The Quilt Rambler will pick up next time, blogging about my mountain top experiences - so stay tuned! There will be more to ramble about!! Including finding an arts and craft fair AND a quilt shop in the middle of no-where - the most beautiful no-where that I've been to in a long time!

more later
karen O in Texas


Muddling Through said...

What a great first post! I don't think you need any advice from me at all. You got it, girl!
Hugs and hugs,

Darsie said...

I love it....a great blog to read and learn the 'rest of the story' I did not know! Cannot wait to hear more about the vacation! See ya soon. Hugs, Darsie

Anita - aka Granny Patches said...

Hi Karen, glad to see you joined the world of blogging. I think you will like it. Once you get started you will see lots of possibilites with a blog.

Jackie Russell said...

Great first post! I have added you to Google Reader to keep up to date on your progress in the blogging world. I'm also new to blogging.

Jeanne Turner McBrayer said...

Hi Karen, your blog looks great. You are already a well-known writer from the long-arm list, so I bet you will have many loyal followers of your blog! Good luck!

Cathy in KY said...

You've been an inspiration to me since I started with my longarm in October. It's so encouraging to read about people using their God given talents and praising the Lord for it! I look forward to reading more in your blog!

Peggy said...

I loved your "story line" It was creaive and interesting and will look forward to reading more. I have enjoyed the classes of "Square in a square" and am waiting for the next one.
Always remember, To God Be The Glory.

Peggy C