Sunday, August 31, 2008

Major Mess or Mindful Masterpiece?

The verdict is still out, but the commitment has been made. This is either a "Wow" quilt or "What was she thinking" quilt. A major mess of threads or a mindful masterpiece inspired from masterful quilters...wishful thinking? Time will tell.

Did I mention that I've been honored to host two national longarm teachers in my studio? Last fall Sherry Rogers-Harrison and this spring Jamie Wallen....In my studio I have two little class samplers hanging - one each from their workshops. The first is a really nice little wholecloth with formal feathers that I quilted in class with Sherry (and yes, that's a second place ribbon from one of the local guild shows, thank you very much), and the other is Jamie's trademark dragonfly that he quilted while here (I just added the binding and made it a little quilt). Well, early this morning when I came into the studio to "think" before breakfast and getting ready for church I noticed these wallhangings....and that lead me down my current path.

Hum...somewhere on the computer I had a whole file full of digital photos I'd taken of each of their sample quilts...why not take them to the local one-hour photo joint and have a collection of masterpieces to look at for inspiration! Great idea! There was a corner drug store with a photo kiosk on my way to church. Perfect!

I also made the decision to be brave. Instead of matching thread is your friend why not just go wild and have thread play that will show up. Scary thought actually. I would run the risk of ruining this quilt, or worse yet, making it look like a quilt teacher's sampler instead of a real quilt. (whatever that means). It would be a chance to step outside the box. A "no turning back" journey once the commitment was made. Could I live with the end results? Was it worth the risk of disaster? or worse yet, having a quilt that wouldn't be understood at guild show and tell? It bordered on the brink of insanity...and I guess I must have woke up in an insane mood, because I have taken the plunge. Down the river of no return. I hope no regrets. But what's done is done, I don't plan on unquilting -- no matter what the mess!

I am still shaking in my boots, still unsure of the overall picture. Will it look like it was quilted by a foolish woman? Will it be unbalanced and unforgiving when it's complete? Will the quilt hate me for ruining it's life? (grin) I still don't have the answers to this as I am only two rows down in a quilt with seven rows. (sigh) I can't visualize the whole thing yet. Hum. That's not the way Sherry teaches - she's so well thought out and planned. Many quilters are that way - sketching things out first, making things just so. Jamie draws before he quilts, lots of doodles in notebooks. Somehow I missed out on these genes. Too free spirited perhaps? But I'm a fearful free spirit. How did that happen?

Up close, when working on a particular design element, it is fun. I'm enjoying the process. My husband tells me that's what I'm suppose to be doing, enjoying the process - not rushing to the end result (how did he get so wise?). It's been fun to try to mimic the examples from those photos of Sherry's & Jamie's quilts. Oh, I don't pretend that mine are anywhere near the caliber of theirs, but I'm being a good student and practicing. I've always said it's more fun to practice on a "real" quilt instead of muslin...and it just have to be willing to accept the sacrifice in case you ruin the quilt. I'm sure you are thinkin' she must either be a fool or a real risk taker (grin) to be sacrificing a quilt with such sentimental value. Ha, but here's the flaw in that thinking. It's just fabric. GASP. Yep, I'll say it again. It's just fabric.

The other day I was notified by the curator of the quilt exhibit in Galveston that they were taking down the quilt show and that I had the option of coming to get the quilt that day or allow them to put it in their safe until the scheduled pick up at a later date -- the option was provided due to the uncertainty of the current hurricane approaching the gulf...I emailed back that I felt my quilt was in good hands, one way or the other, storm or no storm...that while I valued my quilt - indeed, that quilting was my pleasure, my passion, and my chosen profession - but that it wasn't my life. If something happened to the quilt, then so be it. People are what matter to me, and of course my cute puppy Pixxie (grin). But the point is, as much as I love quilting, it's just fabric. Something I delight in, but bottom line, it is worth's just fabric. And I have lots of it (double grin).

I may need reminding of that when this quilt is finished, when the verdict is final and the end results are's just fabric. I'm having fun. I'm enjoying the process...yes, I'd like for folks to like my quilt...but if they don't...well, what's the worse of it if they don't? they can't take my birthday away from me now can they?

Here's what I accomplished so far on my day off today. It will probably be a week before I can zip it back on and play some more. Who knows which masters I may choose for the next advancement on the quilt frame...I have wonderful books and DVD's by so many talented quilters...who knows what I may decide to practice later. But for today, it's Jamie's and Sherry's class notes that I've referred to. I hope they think I've passed (grin). Despite the student, both are excellent teachers!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quilter's Block

Wow, haven't had this happen in awhile. I have no idea what I want to do on this quilt. Funny, all this time I thought it was emotions that have kept me from quilting my "Starry Starry Night" but I think it's really because I just didn't know what to do with it! Writer's Block meet Quilter's Block -- you are kissing cousins.

It's really a "nothing" sort of quilt. Oh I do think it's pretty, but not really anything special. Just memories, and I realize that in itself makes it special...but from a quilting view point there's nothing special about this quilt.

I did get it loaded last night - oh, notice that the border has changed since my original photo taken December 2003 I posted somewhere in the past year or so I decided to redo the borders. That in itself was some positive progress in working through the emotions of this quilt. I made small strips out of the rectangles I took off then joined them together for a scrappy narrow border. I still have more leftovers, can't decide if they will be a scrappy binding or what...but that's a decision to be made later -- goodness! I need ideas on how to quilt this quilt!

The top actually measures 70 x 82 - I would have like to made it bigger but could no longer get the beautiful black batik. Believe me, I searched! That outer border is pieced from 2 x 4's that were left over from the blocks! It worked. Lots of seams, but it lays flat! Which in and of itself is a small miracle.

Well, today I managed to use my trusty mono-thread to stitch in the ditch along the bright narrow border and around each star to stabilize the quilt. By the way, it really wasn't that emotional for me. I turned on my iPod full of praise and worship songs and focused on the blessings of today as well as the memories of yesterday, without dwelling on the "sad" part.

I have quilted three out of the four borders (and yes, I turned the quilt) and have one more to go before I tackle the interior. By the way, I did the ba-bump feathers -- if you're familiar with Jamie Wallen's teaching this is a take off of one of his to follow later for those of you clueless to my expression of "ba-bump". Just imagine a feather that really looks like a molar at the end and you'll get a visual. It's a narrow border so I marked a soft wavy line for my spine (with chalk) and ba-bumped away (grin).

Oh, and did I mention that I'm using Hobbs Tuscany Wool batting?! I love that batting - even here in hot humid Houston it's the best to sleep under. It's as light as a feather and breathable. Most of my personal quilts have the Tuscany Wool in them. This special quilt is no exception.

So, as I'm turning the quilt and thinking of all sorts of things to do I notice that I just love the way the wool makes the fabric seem softer somehow...and I'm thinking, do I want a dense quilt? I love dense quilting...but am thinking I want more "poof" in this quilt, feel more of the wool...hum...that's my problem. I don't remember how to do light custom. My thoughts for this quilt ran more towards a chance to play around with different design elements and somehow connect them with loops and swirls...sorta like how the night sky is full of constellations and yet are all connected...but then there's the draw of the poof. It's soooo soft..

So that's where I'm I want to do light and fluffy or dense and interesting at the risk of being flat? Running the risk, actually, of just making a mess of this quilt. And this is just considering the black background! Goodness I don't know yet what I want to do in the stars. I thought about multiple thread changes and do Jamie's Flurry of Angels - very appropriate for the memories associated with this quilt...and yet, I sorta just want to leave the stars unquilted...or maybe treat this like a sampler and make every star different. oh the decisions! Oh the pressure (grin) I really wanted to work on it this weekend (as publicly declared) and try to finish up a long overdue project...but I'm tempted to take it off the frame and save it for another time (I think that's also called procrastination).

Maybe if I slept on it I'll wake up inspired. I hope it doesn't keep me awake thinking of it! And people wonder sometimes why it takes so long to get their quilts back to them....I remember hanging one quilt top in my studio for 36 hours just studying the quilt and trying to decide what to do (of course I was working on another one, a panto, while trying to decide how to custom quilt the hanging one). It's not easy. Creativity, I believe, is a gift from God...but sometimes I can't seem to plug in immediately. I've had folks tell me that they aren't creative...I tend to argue that thought - my point being...if we believe in a Creator, the One who put it all together with unspeakable amount of creativity, and if we take to heart that we are created in HIS image, then it goes without saying that we have the gift of creativity from Him -- oh, I can't make something out of nothing like God - I must start with something -- for example fabric -- but I can use the materials He's provided and the spark of imagination He provides to come up with something considered creative....therefore, with this reasoning, we all are creative because we have inherited that trait from our Creator God in whose image we are created. Makes sense don't ya think? if I can just quit trying so hard and let His creativity flow through me I'm sure I can finish this may not be traditional or a show stopper, but I'm sure it will be creative...maybe like " a quilt that only the maker could love" -- but after all, who am I doing this for? Me and my Creator, and I think He'll like it. Daddy's are like that, so I'm sure my heavenly Father is too -- He delights in His children.

With that said...I can't wait until time to turn on my machine tomorrow after worship service and family lunch to see where the creative spirit leads. I'm sure it will be interesting to say the least -- maybe some lessons learned on what not to do on a customer quilt (grin) who knows what tomorrow will bring! But I know who holds my tomorrows!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Long Over Due

At the 2002 Houston International Quilt Festival I was on a treasure hunt - a hunt for fat quarters. Not just any fat quarters, mind you, they had to be batik. It was my "lean year" -- seems about every other Festival it's either feast or famine, I either have money to spend or I don't. That year I didn't -- well, not much anyway.

But I had enough. Enough to pay for parking each day and enough to stretch out the hunt over several days -- enough to purchase about 20 fat quarters to make what I knew would be a fabulous quilt. And I had fun. For you see, it was just a pure joy to be there. The quilt bug had bit in 2000 and I was still fresh in this craft where everything was new and exciting. So what that I didn't have a shopping budget, it didn't cost much to be there (I'm 'local' and could make the daily commute -- that was before gas prices were so high!), I had a couple of days off work...why not go to simply absorb the excitement of the quilts on display, view the mass array of the vendors, and be lost in the simple joy of "people watching" -- and let's not forget -- the thrill of the hunt. My batik fat quarters! I guess you could say my thoughts that year agreed with the Apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4:11 "..for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am" I was more than content to be at Festival, I was blessed!

I had a wonderful pattern in mind, Lucky Stars by Terri Atkinson, it was fat quarter friendly and I just knew my new found treasure would light up like the night sky on the background fabric I hoped to be able to purchase soon - a beautiful black batik that was speckled with what appeared to me to be super novas. Yep, the treasure hunt was a huge success, I was overjoyed with my purchases and my plans.

Naturally I was eager to begin this project as soon as I recovered from all the Festival goings...I made a few blocks and was so pleased with myself. I can remember sharing those blocks with a few special friends hoping they could envision the outcome as I could...but alas...things have a way of stealing away that piecing time....all too soon my wonderful treasure hunt had become a dreaded UFO to be packed away in the sewing closet of our tiny apartment -- a closet that was actually the laundry closet with the washer and dryer behind accordion doors in my kitchen dining combo of a room. A closet carefully organized with clear plastic shoe boxes housing all my fat quarter stash, my patterns, my UFO's and my special hopes for "Starry Starry Night" -- what I had dubbed my hopeful quilt.

Time passes by. Life throws some curve balls. Other projects were completed before Starry Starry Night, after all, I was now teaching beginning quilting classes at the local quilt shop and area churches and I had to have class samples. I had already taught Lucky Stars and didn't need another one for show and would just have to wait for it's someday.

As a little girl I grew up with "show and tell" -- well, at least that's what I call it now. My mom was a gifted seamstress and made all my sister's and my clothing, plus her own. I can remember holiday weekends such as this (Labor Day, 4th of July, New Year's) when the local Cloth World would have their big sales. We were always up bright and early ready to go pattern and fabric shopping with mom. I can only imagine that she and dad saved up for these big events -- that and the big sale days at the local mall where we did purchase a few "store bought" clothes. Regardless of which type of sale when we got home everything was spread out on the couch for our "show and tell" for when daddy got home. We'd either be showing off the pretty fabric and the future pattern, or modeling the dresses we found in the "bargain basement" at the Foley's Department Store. Didn't matter, it was all met with a round of applause, lots of ohhs and ahhs from daddy. We felt like princesses.

I never out grew "show and tell" - my husband learned the proper responses when I'd come home from a shopping trip for myself or our two boys...and he was always sincere too. I guess he knew how important it was for me that my efforts met his approval.

As I entered the world of quilting and discovered quilt guilds this love of show and tell followed me -- that's actually my why of being involved in local guilds...but I digress and get ahead of my story as it wasn't until April 2004 until I joined my first guild. And yes, for the record, show and tell is my favorite part of the evening!

Back it up almost a year after my treasure hunt for batik fat quarters. I am eagerly awaiting the approaching Houston International Quilt Festival 2003, this year with a little more spending money! It's still weeks away when I get a phone call from my dad. It's not good news.

Seems my dad, who had never been sick a day in his life, was feeling poorly. He'd gone to the doctor and they did some blood work. He was having a biopsy on his liver "just to check". The news wasn't good and a colonoscopy was scheduled. I went to be with my parents some 250 miles north of where I a matter of weeks our lives were changed forever. Dad had colon cancer. And it had already gone into his liver.

I was back and forth to my parents. My sister, who lived in Florida at the time, arranged to come stay several weeks. I was working full-time, had a senior and freshman in high school and trying to maintain some sense of normality. I turned to my therapy of quilting. And I prayed. First I made a prayer quilt for my dad...I'll share more about prayer quilts another time, but I've photographed the several that I've made throughout the past 10 years or so in my Webshots. And I prayed.

I also pulled out my "Starry Starry Night". I needed to piece. Time to finish this one. It was my prayer time. My prayers for daddy. As I pieced, I prayed.

In November of that year (2003) I decided that I needed to give my notice at my job and be more available to assist my mom with my dad's care. My last day at work would be right before the Thanksgiving holiday. My husband, two sons, and I went for a quick one day trip to see mom and dad on Thanksgiving (500 mile round trip). He wasn't strong enough for us to stay long, his surgery and cancer was weakening him. My sister was scheduled to return to Florida the following week, so that's when I was going to come back to be of help, I could stay longer now since I was no longer gainfully employed.

In the meantime, I needed to continue my therapy of sewing. My quilt of choice, back to "Starry Starry Night". As I pieced, I prayed, and I received peace. My have the top completed by the time I went to see dad so I would have some "show and tell".

It's almost been 5 years, but I can still remember sewing on those last pieces on the quilt top. I had taken all the parts that were suppose to be sashing and made a scrappy border -- I just didn't like the way the colors in the pattern were breaking up my night-time sky effect in the body of the quilt, so I changed the pattern to my liking. I had just pronounced it good and had laid it on the couch to take a photo when the phone rang. My dad was passing.

I didn't make it home in time to say goodbye. Dad never saw my last show and tell. Brings tears to my eyes as I think of it now, yet in my heart of hearts, no, deep in my soul, yes, deep within my very spirit, I know my dad was whisked into the gates of splendor and welcomed by his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said "well done my good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of thy salvation".

Why today, why am I writing this? Two reasons. One, I attended a funeral today of another dear man, a true servant of our God and King. He was a co-worker of mine 5 years ago when my dad passed. A good man. A true solider in the Lord's Army as his pastor stated today. His illness wasn't an 8 week battle with cancer like my dad's, but instead a longer trial with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He fought the battle well. He finished the race on Tuesday morning of this week and today friends gathered with his family to say our farewells. For you see, if you are a true believer in Jesus, you know it's not really good bye, it's just "see you soon" -- it's a temporary separation. That's our hope. To one day be reunited in heaven spending eternity with our God and Savior.

Returning home from this celebration of a dear saint's life I was reminded of my own dad's homecoming, and the unquilted "Starry Starry Night" -- for you see, even though I finished piecing it the day dad went to heaven, I haven't been able to quilt it. First it was pure emotions, naturally, and well, added to that I didn't have a longarm yet -- but my dad shared that dream with me. The last time I saw him he was encouraging me to purchase a longarm and start my dream. Two years later, on the anniversary date of his homecoming, I had an open house to celebrate my own longarm and the new home that God provided for me to set up a studio (and for my family to dwell- it's not all about the studio, but that's where I spend most of my time). No more working out of the laundry closet, I now had an entire room to call my own. I chose the date of dad's passing as a tribute to him believing in me. That was 2005.

I have to take a deep breath here because I am publicly making a commitment to finally finish the quilt that was to be my show and tell for dad. This weekend I will be loading "Starry Starry Night" on my quilting frame and praying as I quilt that the good Lord will comfort the family who is temporarily separated from their loved one through this process we call death. I will be praying for God to guide my fingers as I guide my longarm...not that the quilting would be anything over the top or show quality, but that He would be honored in my thank offering for the gifts He has given me...the gift of life, love, and His promise of eternity. I know the journey of "quilting through" will not be without emotion...but it's long over due and I intend to do my best
- for His glory.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Update on My Dangling Carrot

Earlier this month I started a new project with 40 four patches found discarded in a UFO pile. I used the Square in a Square (SnS) technique to go around them twice, once with the woodgrain black fabric and once again with the wild lime green stripe to grow the blocks (they will be 7.5 finished). Wow, enough now to make this a lap size quilt instead of a baby quilt had I used used the 4-patches as is (heaven knows I didn't want to make a 100 more of them just to get a bigger quilt!)

I mentioned in my blog that I should add some carrot fabric so I could legally call the quilt "My Dangling Carrot" and received offers of help...I am still accepting carrot and veggie prints as my plans have now changed to include other fun prints...

You can see the progress I made yesterday on my 'day off' -- the photo is deceiving, these aren't attached yet. To each "green" SnS I added two SnS with carrot fabric purchased from . I just twisted and turned for the photo...the blocks currently only have carrots on one side, but this will be the future layout.

Here's the plan. That "hole" in between the setting solution of the two orange SnS blocks will be filled with the 5 inch squares I have received from my internet friends and a couple of local gals.

So far I have a dozen or so conversational fabrics to add and I'm so eager to see how it all comes together! I love the peas in a pod from Dawn in Idaho and the veggie melody from Jeanne in NC, Kaye in LA sent me a yard or more of cute little carrots, I may have enough for a narrow border, who knows! Dolly in OK sent me carrots on green background and carrots on my favorite PURPLE background. LeAnn in OK sent me tomatoes, peas and radishes on yellow backgrounds, and my local buddy Donna gave me carrot fabric similar to what I bought but with BIGGER carrots and a brown stem area instead of the green - so I'll be able to distinguish her fabric from mine.

A few more have offered their assistance in creating this quilt, so I look forward to going to the mailbox and being delighted even further. I am going to send a thank you five inch square in trade once I get my round-to-it. (you can email me if you want my snail mail address to add to my fun!

Since my "day off" is Sunday afternoons after worship it will take a few weeks to complete. I'm not sure what I'll do for borders, will just have to wait and be inspired. This is truly an unplanned quilt, but I'm finding this very fun and rewarding. All because I cleaned out my drawers due to a potential hurricane threat and found 40 four patches! God truly does work in mysterious ways, and loves to delight His children.

Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall direct your paths!

Square in a Square Tumbling Blocks Class

Over the weekend I taught two SnS classes in my studio -- three students on Friday and five students on Saturday. The class was 9 AM to 3 PM and the ladies all accomplished several rows of tumbling blocks done the Square in a Square way.

The technique used was very very easy, simply Option 1, which is the basic square in a square, I love this technique -- sewing strips to a square and trimming with the SnS ruler, it's so much easier than the flip and sew method or the adding of triangles to the sides. I never could get those to turn out square!

By watching our color placement, the illusion of tumbling blocks was formed. Many of the ladies did the rainbow theme similar to the project in Jodi Barrow's book Advancing On II which was our foundation for the class. A few were brave and branched out in new and exciting colors. Here's the smiling faces proudly showing their accomplishments for the day...several have already emailed saying they have finished their project or are almost finished. All loved the SnS technique and I love teaching it!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quilting Makes the Quilt

or perhaps, not as bold, quilting enhances a beautiful quilt. I love to watch a beautifully pieced quilt top blossom under the needle of my longarm! Here's a few photos showing how each thread change, each design element, enhanced this quilt top. I hope you'll agree. For more photos visit my webshot albums

Finally finished! Ta-Da!

Taking time to organize the stash

If you've been following these Kronicles of karen, you'll remember my 'space bag' attempt to waterproof my customer quilts and stash in preparation for a hurricane - and the praise that we were spared - well, those bags sat in my studio for well over two weeks before I could even attempt to unpack them...I had several customer quilts that had to be taken care of first...and I knew that it would be a chore to put up all the goodies in these bags!

My solution was to order more Fabric Organizers and take a day off to get my stash in order. I can tell you it was soooo worth the effort! Not only is my fabric nice and neat in the wire Closet Maid drawer system I have under both my ironing station and my cutting stations, (see my studio webshot album for more details) but I now have visions of future quilts dancing around my busy brain.

I'll share with you later the logic behind my organization and the plans that I have, but right now I need to get ready for my guild day -- I'm sooo fortunate to have several area quilt guilds to attend. Today it's Mainland Morning, in Texas City and tonight it's Island Quilters in Galveston.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In My Spare Time

The large quilt, Hop Around Nashville, was on my frame from Monday afternoon until 7:30 PM Friday night. I called on Saturday at 9:30 AM to arrange getting it to the shop when they opened at 10. The owner asked if I could possibly have time to do the hand-sewn side of the binding - her previous instructions were to do the one side machine attached...and could that be done by the afternoon as she had a granddaughter's birthday party to attend before heading out of town early on Sunday...of course! 94 x 118 = 424 liner inches and I did it! Check out all the detailed photos in my webshot album.

By 5 o'clock I was on my own clock and ready to do something fun. So why not make a baby quilt? My oldest son's friend was a new daddy as of Friday and I just knew that new baby girl needed a quilt. When they were over earlier last week, the soon to be daddy was admiring the quilt on the frame and commented how much he loved seeing what I was working on. All the more reason to share my talent - it's great being appreciated!

This is where those 5" pre-cut charm packs come in handy! I knew I didn't have a lot of time, but I did have the weekend!

As I don't know the mother very well and didn't know the nursery colors I decided to just be bold! My local shop carries a lot of the charm packs but the only one that caught my eye was the one labeled Fresh Squeeze (by Moda fabrics) and I knew that would work..

So ta's Fresh Squeezed Baby pieced Saturday night and quilted after church on Sunday afternoon. It's 30 x 43, a nice size don't you think? I used Quilters Dream Angel batting, a first for me. It quilted up nicely and I like the fact that I'm giving something that is "flame retardant".

Even though this was a "fast" quilt, I didn't want it to look too thrown together, so I just had to have that excuse to put feathers around the border. Just wouldn't seem right without feathers. And I love any excuse to use a stripe for the binding.

I will see my son tomorrow and he will deliver it to the new baby. I hope they like it and it is used. This isn't an heirloom quilt by any means, just a gift of love...again my hope is that it is used and washed a lot! Who knows, one day it might be her dolly's quilt. That would make me smile!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Auditioning Designs

Currently I am working on a beautiful 12 block sampler. It's a huge quilt, 94 x 118. The blocks are set on point with 15" alternating blocks and setting triangles that leave a lot of room for beautiful heirloom feathers -- something I dearly love to quilt!

As mentioned in a previous post, it takes quite a while to load a quilt prior to ever taking the first stitch. This quilt, including some marking of the large blocks prior to loading, took 2 hours before I was able to start the quilting process.

Here's a photo of the quilt draped over my frame prior to loading.

I first used a mononylon thread to stitch in the ditch (SID) to stabilize the quilt as well as add dimension to the overall quilting process. I prefer to use the "invisible" thread especially when the adjoining colors are so contrasting. Hides a multitude of sins. Especially if the seams are not properly pressed to provide a proper ditch to stitch in. This varies from quilt to quilt and even within the same quilt, so best to err on the safe side and use invisible thread. SID is not hard, just very time consuming and requires an extended base and ruler for the process - which took almost 4 hours. Lots of stops, starts, and advancing the quilt on the frame. Not to mention the wear and tear on my neck and shoulders from keeping a constant speed and constant pressure on the ruler to assure as straight lines as possible. It's my least favorite part of the quilting, especially since I blew out my shoulder last year loosing range of motion for about 2 months, but an heirloom quilt demands no less! It's what I would do on my own quilt, and my motto is to treat every quilt as if it were my own.

This particular quilt will have multiple thread changes -- I prefer to use a matching thread to assure that the quilting is complementing the piecing and not over taking it. Sometimes the quilting is king sometimes the piecing. A lot depends upon the quilt and the customer's taste. As I've quilted numerous samplers for this customer, I know she prefers matching thread.

Since the quilt is now stabilized I can advance it back and forth without the worry of puckers or pleats in the quilt top or back, thus allowing me to work with one color throughout the quilt before having to change thread colors. Had the quilt not be stabilized I would be limited to the exposed area on the frame and would be changing thread colors numerous times throughout the quilting process. Advancing to the next area, and repeating all over again.

Today I worked on the cream colored areas of the quilt. I don't have a photo of the alternating blocks, will take that tomorrow. But I do have a photo of how I audition designs.

I have a clear piece of acrylic that I use like a dry erase board. I placed blue painters tape along the edges as a visual reminder to NOT draw on the quilt top -- dry erase markers do not come out of fabric (ask me how I know). I then place this drawing surface over my quilt and doodle. Trust me, I quilt better than I draw.

Once I decided on the design for this setting triangle I then used my circle templates and marked the spine with a blue water soluble pen to keep the design for all four corners consistent.

I then freehanded the feather design, working each corner one after another in an effort to remember the design and keep it fairly consistent - as consistent as one can be free handing!

Once my large blocks were done I began to work on the 12 blocks. Remember, I'm working with the cream colored thread only. As I come to each block I need to come up with some sort of idea of how I want to quilt it. I doodle, erase, and doodle some more. Everything is "inspired" and done at the machine, I'm not one to draw out the whole quilt ahead of time. My customers trust my instincts and allow me the freedom for their quilt top to become my canvas for my "art". It's always a challenge to come up with something new on each block - but that's the beauty of a sampler and the fun of being the quilter.

Since there will be multiple color changes and since I don't have the best memory, I take a photo of my design so when I come back to that block with the second color I remember what I previously decided I was going to do with that are a few of my plans that I will implement tomorrow as I continue to work on this quilt.

Stay tuned for more photos of this quilt. After the blocks are done I will then do the borders. This particular quilt requires "turning" -- a process that will be explained later.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Dangling Carrot

Due to the storm prep this past week I lost some quilting time, which translates to "no day off" today, Sunday, which I normally take off to do some personal quilting after worship. Instead, I have a quilt that needs binding on one side and a small quilt that has to be done before midnight since both of these are promised on Monday....

In an effort to make myself work I created a dangling carrot.

When preparing for Edouard by placing customer quilts as well as my personal quilt related items in waterproof bags I uncovered a treasure. Lots of treasures actually. Honestly, it's all I can do to keep from wanting to go play in my fabric stash! Somewhere along the journey of quilting I started cutting my leftovers into 2.5 inch strips (this was before Jelly Rolls for the record). AND! Somewhere along the way I make 40 some odd 4 patch squares from these strips.

Hence my discovery! Hence my distraction!

As a newly certified Square in a Square instructor I am seeing my fabric stash in a whole new way! Why not take those 4 patches and turn them into a SnS project? Perhaps 40 would be enough for a lap quilt...I certainly don't want to make hundreds of 4" four patches and I really don't need another wall hanging...

So, Option 5, "anything in the middle" met my needs of growing my little four patches, but why stop there? I really wanted an Option 2, "go around two times or more" so the square would grow..

I took an hour off for myself and made a few of these blocks. My dangling carrot! Now I'll head back to work and try to be diligent and focus so I can get off early and come play with my dangling carrot. I'm dreaming of a star setting, also done with the Square in a Square techniques.. maybe in the next few Sundays I'll have something to report!

Wonder if anyone out there has a little bit of fabric with carrots on it so I can legally name my treasure "A Dangling Carrot"??? That would top things off rather nicely don't ya'think?

Friday, August 8, 2008

How a quilt is loaded on a longarm

I know several of you out there in blog-cyperspace are longarm quilters, so this post may seem ridiculous...but for my customers, future customers, and yes, even YOUR customers (you could send them a link or print this out), I thought I'd go over the basics of how a quilt is loaded on a longarm machine and the "whys" of having a back at least 8 inches longer and 8 inches wider than your pieced top.

Modern day hand quilters or even domestic machine quilters generally baste the three layers of the quilt sandwich together - top, batting, and backing. But when having your quilt professionally done on a longarm machine the parts and pieces need to come separately because they are loaded separately. In some ways the set up reminds me of the frame my grandmother had that was lowered down from the ceiling - the entire quilt was stretched out...see if you agree with the similarity.

It is very important that the back be larger, as mentioned, than the top. Nothing worse than running out of back before you run out of quilt -- ask me how I know! Not only does it need to be long enough, but there should be enough clearance on the sides to avoid hitting the clamps that are used to keep the sandwich taunt during quilting. Not fun to bump into these babies, leaves all sorts of goofy boo-boos in the quilt design. It's equally important that the back be square and lay flat just like the quilt top (for more on this visit my website). If it can't be loaded square, it won't quilt square or be pucker free. Again, ask me how I know!

The back is pinned on to the leader bars (or takeup rollers) of the longarm - at the top and bottom forming a tight hammock of sorts. If the back isn't square it will sag (not good).

The pinning process takes up several inches so this is why your quilter asks for the back to be larger. Depending upon the density of the quilting, the way it is rolled, and a few other unknown factors this is another reason that the back needs to be longer. Trust me, it really truly isn't fun to run out of back before you run out of quilt. Your quilter should always measure your back as well as your top to make sure everything will work properly.

After the back is pinned top and bottom, with the excess backing rolled onto the bottom leader, the batting is then stitched on to the back. I use a straight stitch to do this.

One, it gives me a straight line to be able to line up and baste the top on, and two it allows me to pretest the thread tension before taking a stitch on the quilt top.

Next the pieced top is basted across the top and down the exposed sides. This basting process continues as the quilt is advanced helping to keep the top square and smooth.

Depending upon your quilter, the bottom of the quilt top can either be pinned and rolled up on another leader bar or it can simply "float". I prefer to float my tops, so they are gently tucked under the machine out of the way as I work.

This process generally takes no less than 45 minutes of preparation, obviously larger quilts take longer to pin or "load" than baby or lap quilts.

If the quilter is doing a "panto" ~ which is simply a designer paper pattern followed by a laser light ~ he or she is quilting from the back side of the machine. (Unless of course it's computer guided instead of hand guided, but I know nothing on that subject).

Working on the back side can have some disadvantages, especially if the quilt top has "issues" or doesn't lay flat - the quilter isn't looking directly at the quilt at all times, just glancing up as he/she is following the pattern. Generally this is not a problem - however, some quilts require a little TLC and the quilter may suggest that a panto would not be in the best interest of the quilting process.

Once a row has been completed it is time to "advance the quilt" to be able to quilt the next row. The pattern is lined up with the laser light as the take up leaders are rolled exposing more of the quilt top. The exposed sides are basted down (from the front of the machine by the way) and then the next row is quilted.

This process is repeated until the end of the quilt is exposed - at that time the bottom of the quilt must also be basted to keep from flipping up and being caught in the hopping foot and to generally just keep it in place for the remainder of the quilting process.

Seems simple. In a way it is. However, please understand that following a line with a laser light does take some coordination to flow smoothly...and then there's all the issues of making sure the tension is correct not only with the thread but with the quilt sandwich itself. Longarm quilters all go through the school of hard knocks to learn their craft and maintenance their machines. Many only do pantos while others don't do them at all. Freestyle quilting moves from the back of the machine to working from the front of the machine, as does freehand custom or even heirloom design. There is never one way to quilt a quilt. There are always options. Everyone has their own personal style and their own personality. It's truly a partnership in completing a quilt between the piecer and the quilter. That's what I enjoy about my job. Building relationships with my customers and having the honor to work on such beautiful pieces of art!

This particular quilt has a few more rows to go...and then it's on to a custom quilt...perhaps I'll share photos of that process too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's Not All About Me

My dad used to tell me that when I got down or had a pity party that the only way to recover was to focus on others and get the focus off of ME. Sometimes, honestly, that's very very difficult to do. My problems or my woes seem to blind me and cause me to forget that there are those who have it much worse than I.

I was reminded of this as I caught up with an online list of fellow longarm of our number has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer while another member just recently had to place her husband of 50+ years into a nursing home due to the crippling disease of Alzheimer's ....the world is full of hurting people and I tend to just think about me...shame on me.

As I was being convicted of my selfishness a song came on the radio -- it's called "Give Me Your Eyes" by Houstonian Brandon Heath. It's such a new song that I couldn't get the lyrics off of Christian Music Lyrics

Instead I had to try to take dictation to be able to share the words from this song....forgive me where I get the quotation can purchase the single song for only a dollar from iTunes and listen to it on your computer....

"give me Your eyes for just one minute, give me Your eyes so I can see everything that I've keep missing, give me Your love for humanity, give me Your heart for the broken hearted, give me Your heart for the forgotten, give me Your eyes so I can see..."

Oh that I would realize that it's not all about me. That it's about loving others and walking with them through their woes, all the while, hopefully, pointing them to the One who can heal the broken hearted, the One who can heal the pain, the One who loves us more than we can ever imagine - the Creator and Sustainer of life - the Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you don't know Him, or have questions about His me I'd love to introduce you to my best friend.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blue Skies

We were blessed. The storm came in 6 hours earlier than predicted thus reducing the potential build up of wind and rain. Although I don't fully understand this, my husband said that it wasn't typical in the way that the west side of the storm is usually the dry side (which it wasn't)...and somehow the way it was forming it pulled water out of the gulf which allowed for a better runoff from the rains. Again, I'm clueless, all I know is this photo was taken at 3 PM - the original forecast for this time would have been the beginning of a long rain - and I was singing praises.

There was more rain inland. I quit watching the news and took an afternoon nap so I'm not sure how the rest of the area faired.

We are thankful that we were prepared, thankful that we didn't need our preparations, and also discovered a few flaws in what we thought was preparedness (namely I didn't have enough food or water in the event of an extended power outage). It was wonderful not to have lost power. I caught up on some of my computer "paperwork" that I never seem to have time to get around to.

Though uneventful, this has been emotionally and physically taxing due to the "rush" of getting things done. Now that the boards are cut for our windows the next time won't be so rough.

The hard part now is unpacking my space bags and putting things back in the drawers.

I honestly had no idea I had so much stuff in my studio ~ I'm thinking that I shouldn't be allowed to go fabric shopping for quite some time ~ I really want to work on my UFO's and turn this fabric into quilts - hopefully I'll be posting photos of finished quilts. But not for a while yet, I am behind in my customer quilts due not only to vacation but now Edouard. I'm thinking tonight that all I can muster is finishing the binding on a quilt I finished last week, and then start anew tomorrow.

His Mercy is New Every Morning -- and I'm counting on it!

Threat of Wind Diminished

It's almost 11:30, the rain has been steady but not extreme, at least not at our location. Our ditches seem to be doing their job, I keep taking photos each hour and the water level has remained constant.

My husband experienced a lot of wind coming home, said he was blown sideways along the freeway, but thankfully the roads are clear and he had no one in the lanes next to him.

Pixxie was very glad to have the front boards removed from the windows to let in some light. The wind isn't much here, but the radio just reported that it's 70 mph in other areas. I hope we weren't premature about removing those boards that were under the covered porch, but I'm with Pixxie, it's great to be able to look out!

First hour or so of rain

I’m getting claustrophobic with the windows boarded up. It’s daylight and the shades should be open – I’m used to embracing the day. Thank goodness for a covered porch and a glass storm door. From my studio (where my computer is located) I can hear the rain outside the laundry room door that leads to the back yard. Wish I could see out...right now it sounds like any normal gulf coast rainstorm.

I’m trying to keep busy. It's only 8 AM, on a normal day I would just be having breakfast...yet today I have already done the dishes (no marathon, just a few) and cleared off all the storm supplies that had been dumped on the kitchen cabinet. I've even vacuumed. Not that I'm a neat freak or anything, but we did track in a lot of sawdust yesterday.

My studio is still a wreck – several space bags are full of quilts in waiting, personal quilts, UFO’s and fabric. Oh and then there’s the bags full of thread and pantos – things you really don’t want wet . I guess this will be my next "cabin fever" project to make some sense of order out of this room...that and the paperwork that seems to continually surround my computer. We still don't know how much rain to expect, so there may be more preparations as the day progresses.

I need to find my mosquito repellent – when I step outside for some relief the little buggers have a feast.

It will be 2 more hours before my husband gets off work. He's had a long night. I’m praying that the storm will stay light for his 30 mile commute home. I know it’s just barely begun and it’s going to be a long day, I hope he will be able to sleep.

Once I finish cleaning the house I may try to finish up the binding on a customer quilt.

I had to turn the news off, that just added to my claustrophobia. Nothing new they can tell me – the storm is here and now it’s just a matter of patience until it’s past.

Approaching Storm

It's 7 AM, the local news is blaring in the background as report after report is coming in concerning the storm. Sometimes too much information can be a burden.

There's a live reporter just 5 miles north of me, so that's interesting to see what's going on since I can't look outside my windows . Currently the rain is just starting, light winds.

According to the news, the eye of the storm has turned east, so Galveston Island is not expecting the direct hit they were yesterday. This is good news as I'm about 25 miles inland from the island. Hopefully the wind and rain won't be as severe as they first predicted.

Reports say we will have a full day of rain and wind. I'm hoping we continue to have power, at least long enough for me to finish up some chores. Last thing I did last night was to transfer my computer files to an external hard drive, "just in case". I've got the iPod all charged up too! Full of my praise and worship music as well as a few sermon podcasts from my pastor.

As a testimony to God's grace, I slept soundly last night. Now my real challenge it to keep my focus on Him and not on the storm. For He is my Rock, my Salvation, my Deliver, my Shelter, my Strong Tower, an ever present help in trouble. He is my God and my King. In whom (or what) shall I be afraid!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

24 to 36 hours. That's all the warning Edouard has given us. Currently it's still a tropical storm, but the gulf coast is preparing as if it were a Hurricane. The keyword is "be prepared". For us, that meant boarding up the windows. We moved into this house after Rita '05, and kept procrastinating buying plywood. Not this time.

An all day ordeal, beginning at 7 AM with a borrowed truck to pick up the plywood. Lots of measuring and cutting and regrouping...I'll save some of the details, but trust me when I say it was ALL DAY and it was an ordeal!

Now the focus is on the inside - trying to waterproof what we can in the event of flood waters. As a Quilter for Hire I have had to implement a hurricane plan to insure my customer quilts are as protected as possible. I actually did this last year with the purchase of "space bags" -- you can see more photos on my webshot album . I'm actually "taking a break" from loading up these bags (it's 9:30 PM for the record). All the customer quilts were taken care of first, now I'm loading my stash, my thread, and my personal quilts. The batting has already been moved to the attic as have my bolts of fabric that I use for my Square in a Square samples/classes.

I think I've discovered the burden of having too much stuff. It demands time and attention. Whoever said "Less is More" was very correct (I believe that was the name of a Mennonite cookbook I once borrowed from a friend). I actually have personal testimony to the fact that "less is more" ~ we sold all our stuff back in 1998 and lived in an RV for almost 4 years traveling and working on the road with our then-teenage sons and Pixxie....and had all we needed! but that's another story ....

Stuff. Can't take it with you. Can enjoy it while you're here or while it's in your possession, but it's not worth loosing sleep over. I hope I can say that with true conviction this time tomorrow after we've experienced Edouard. (Who names these things anyway, I can't even pronounce it!! and I've noticed that the newscaster have difficulty too).

I've been leaning on a popular Christian song since yesterday...we actually sang it in church during the morning services, but it became my theme song, if you will, once I discovered about 5:30 PM Sunday that we were under storm's by Tree63 and is based on a verse in Job. I've included the words below and would encourage you to download it from iTunes...that and another song I can't place right now with the lines "sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child" by Scott Krippayne I believe...

I'm resting on these thoughts and my faith in Christ alone as we experience "the calm before the storm"

Blessed be your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

Blessed be your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Any Day is a Good Day for a Quilt Show

The Galveston County Historical Society has an on going quilt exhibit in the Common House on Galveston Island. One of the gals in our guild is the curator. The current exhibit is called "Lights and Brights" which I went to view it for the first time Friday. It's fun to see your own quilt hanging on a wall! Especially one that is too big to photograph at home!

The local gals certainly know how to make bright quilts! And seems the Historical Society loves having the changing "decorations" on their wall!

If you are in Galveston be sure and check out this on going, changing, exhibit! Here's just a taste of what I viewed on Friday. As I stated, any day is a good day for a quilt show!!