Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just in time for Christmas

The phone rang just a few short days before Christmas. I wasn't where I could answer it so it went to voice mail. Upon checking my messages I discovered that someone had been referred to me, as a professional quilter - their inquiry? the possibility of a "memory quilt" for a daughter who was to be laid to rest the following day.

As I listened, my heart broke for this family and their sorrow in losing a precious daughter, especially at the holidays - as I too have lost family members during this season and know first hand the emotions.

That was Christmas 2009. I returned the call to find out more details. Their beautiful adult daughter had just passed and they had been told that I could take articles of clothing and make a quilt. Yes, I could do that. Would it be possible to have a snowman on the quilt? Jennifer loved Christmas and especially snowmen.... there was a special black velvet dress that would be perfect for the top hat....

We agreed to meet after the holidays to develop a design for their memory quilt. Prior to our meeting I sketched out a rough draft in Electric Quilt 6 (above) to see if this would meet with their approval.

Mid January 2009 I met R. & C., lovely people who obviously had a deep love and a deep sense of loss for their daughter Jennifer. As we got to know each other a bit they shared about their daughter, a woman full of grace and beauty with lots of love to share to those around her, both family & friends as well as strangers. We talked about some of the quilts on my webshots/website and how collectively we could come up with a pattern that would best honor their love for Jennifer.

I'm not exactly sure how we came to the conclusion that what they really wanted was a wholecloth with a snowman, but that's where we landed.

A wholecloth quilt is just what it sounds like..a whole piece of fabric, no piecing, nothing appliqu├ęd, where the design is done simply in thread. Traditional wholecloths are white fabric with white thread, and have also been called white work. Artist license in modern quilting has embraced non-traditional wholecloths where the fabric can be any color, the thread any color, and may even include fabric paint or embellishments. Ours would be traditional. I remember my thoughts at the time what an honor to be a part of something that is going to be a true heirloom.

My quilting schedule was pretty booked for the spring, and I knew that the quilting would take a lengthy time to complete. I wasn't sure of a time frame... R. & C. were most gracious in not wanting to rush things and allowing me time to develop and implement the design.

Knowing that the design's focus would be a snowman I began researching images on the internet for snowmen, snowflakes, and cardinals - the family mentioned that cardinals were very symbolic and sentimental in their memories so three cardinals were to be a part of the plan. Several sketches later I emailed the design below as a starting point for developing the look they wanted to achieve.

It was then that I felt the quilt should be called Essence of Jennifer. We made an appointment to get together to tweak the design. I felt like a school teacher with my red pen (grin) as we tried to make some notes and ideas of how he really should look...

Weeks later we all agreed on this design.

By now the spring had turned to fall. So many interruptions to this mission .... delays included the fabric being on back order for weeks, as well as my other obligations - other customer quilts, traveling to set up quilting machines, etc.

The day finally came when the fabric arrived and I could begin the marking. Our snowman was enlarged to become the center medallion of a queen size quilt. Using blue marking pens, that are water soluble, I began the lengthy process of transferring my "idea on paper" to my "design on fabric".

In keeping with traditional wholecloth design elements I wanted to include radiating lines to help draw the eye towards the center where the focus would be on the snowman and the three cardinals representing family memories. During the design process we all three agreed that we liked the traditional feather cable design...I had just the perfect stencil for that!

Marking was tedious work, it literally took all day...and a little more...OOPS! All the careful measuring and math didn't compute... coming down the side and turning the corner - GASP! the design elements didn't match up. Time to pull out the "eraser" - a special pen designed to remove the blue markings.

That was slow going, so I got out a spray bottle full of water - after all, it is water soluble marking pens right? And I had a lot of territory to undo...

Of course, the negative to all this water is having to wait for the area to dry before remarking. One might think you could speed up the process by blow drying with a hair dryer or perhaps putting in the dryer...however, heat would set the blue marking pen permanently. Not desired!

Finally the border, radiating lines, and the outline of the snowman was complete - all that was left was a little detail work. Back to the computer for snowflake images to trace.

You might notice the pen at the base of the snowman and that big blank area - that's another small oops (grin) This time instead of using the "store bought" eraser or a squirt bottle (whose over spray erases more than you want sometimes) I used a water marker from a kids toy called AquaDoodle. I prefer this as it's not only efficient (time wise and no over spray) but it's economical - simply refill with water as needed.

The day finally came when it was time to load the snowman on the frame....

You may wonder where the blue lines are... well, once I quilted the area I would spray with the spray bottle to temporary remove the lines so I could "see" my work. It was a temporary fix as the blue lines would sometimes reappear. Not to be alarmed, this is normal until the quilt is fully immersed in water and not just sprinkled.

Life has its interruptions and so does the ebb and flow of quilting. The snowman had to be unzipped from the frame for a short period of time, but only after it was stabilized - meaning I had outline quilted all the border (before the details were added as seen in the photo above) and once the snowman was outlined as well as all the radiating lines quilted....couldn't risk any fabric shifting that could cause potential problems later on.

This short "time off" gave me an opportunity to hang up the quilt to better see the design and the progress instead of just the exposed area on the quilt frame. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The final element was adding all the tiny detail and background fill. I wasn't really sure how to implement this, what sort of design did I want to do? Hum...this has been my year for "feather puffs", a design I developed earlier in the year and used on several customer quilts (including one that won a ribbon and one that was published in a book)...seems like that just might work, it would certainly add some movement and perhaps convey the illusion of snowflakes around the snowman...

You can see how tiny the feather puffs are...that's the top of a flower head pin above and the hopping foot on my longarm below is a quarter inch from the needle to the outside you some perspective.

Here's a view of the snowman being surrounded by the background fill.

Once all the quilting was complete it was time for the true test to see what it looked like without all the blue lines. Into the washing machine it went. Only a rinse cycle with NO detergent.

Hallelujah, all the blue lines disappeared in the wash. But to make sure I had to air dry the quilt instead of putting it in the dryer, again, heat sets in the blue lines...the proof that all would be well would come the next day after it was dry.

Sigh of relief! All dry, very wrinkled and not looking like I envisioned, but knowing it wouldn't look "finished" until it was. Now it was time to draw the scallop edge...

Then add the bias binding, then trim the excess away...then hand sew the binding down on the back...

Then back in the wash again. I did this for two reasons, I wanted the binding to "pucker up" just like the rest of the quilt and I also wanted the fabric to loosen up a tad. This time I used a mild detergent and indeed dried it in the dryer on low heat.

He came out happy!

Here's Essence of Jennifer in her full glory
Designed & Quilted by Karen E Overton

Unfortunately I'm not a professional photographer, and the lighting isn't always the best, but I hope you will enjoy looking at the close ups. I believe if you click on the photo that it will enlarge..

I couldn't resist...wanted to see how she looked on a bed...

and of course Pixxie couldn't resist the opportunity to be in a photo!

I'm not 100% sure, but I do believe that R. & C. picked up their heirloom a year to the date of calling me....

As I worked on this quilt, or thought about this quilt, throughout the year my thoughts and prayers were with this family - that they would be comforted in their loss and that somehow the works of my hands would give them joy in the mist of their sorrow.

Christmas is truly in the heart.
Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bodacious Longarm Gift Basket

It's been a while since the Houston International Quilt Festival....but I need to revisit that time for just a bit and update on the Bodacioius Gift Basket that was drawn among the new longarm quilters purchasing an A1 Quilting Machine at our booth this year....

Since my last post we have been two steppin' all over Texas setting up new A1 Quilting Machines and in just a few short weeks our winner of the Bodacious Gift Basket will join the ranks of a new A1 quilter! I want to share just what was in that basket and take time to thank our sponsors for making this gift possible.

Thank you to Stewart Plank, owner of A1 Quilt Machines for the tote bag and Towa Gauge - the tote bag has multiple uses of course, but for those of you unfamiliar with the TOWA, it's a tool to assist in determining the proper tension on the bobbin, thus eliminating half of the tension headaches (grin).

Thank you to H.D. Wilbanks and Darlene Christopherson of Pellon Legacy for their contribution of a 9 yd x 96" wide bolt of 80/20 batting and a queen size bamboo prepackaged batting.

Jamie Wallen, A1 dealer and national quilt instructor, along with his partner, A1 dealer Roseanne Campisi donated their newest DVD The Care & Feeding of Your A-1 Quilting Machine. They have joined forces on several instructional DVDs including quilting design elements and fun items like gallery baskets.

Another A1 dealer, Brenda Janovy, donated a handy longarm apron to our new quilter.

Texas designer, Patricia Ritter of Urban Elementz, donated two beautiful pantograph patterns.

Diana Phillips of Cozy Creations donated one of her Line Dancing Books, More Line Dancing - so many beautiful quilting designs to inspire and encourage our new quilter! She has many wonderful design books for machine quilters.

Quilters are such generous people. When I first posted on a longarm forum that I was looking for ideas for a gift basket my online buddy, Dawn Rameriz, the Pajama Quilter , quickly contacted me that she would be happy to donate her newest DVD and workbook, Pajama Quilter Retreaded. Dawn's work just makes you smile! She's sooo cute demo-ing quilt designs in her PJ's.

Almost immediately after receiving Dawn's generous offer to help out with the gift basket, Vicki Anderson of Machine Quilting Unlimited suggested that our new quilter needed a one year subscription to her wonderful magazine. I totally agreed! (It is my favorite longarm magazine!)

Bob Purcell of Superior Threads graciously donated King Tut and So Fine to our new quilter. A special thank you to Bob for being a provider of thread for not only the Houston show but all the shows that A1 Quilting Machines attends. The customers just love the beauty of the King Tut, Rainbows and Metallics that we run on our machines!

Lorrie Coats of Columbia River Quilting donated Superior Thread's Rainbows and Bottom Line threads along with wonderful Titanium needles. As you can see from her flyer, she operates a one stop online shop for longarm quilters - books, threads, needles, rulers, etc.

Chris Meyers of Fil-Tec graciously donated several spools of Glide and Maga-Glide prewound bobbins. Thank you to Chris, Matt & Rachel for your support at both MQS and the Houston Festival in supplying Maga-Glide prewound bobbins to use in the booth for demos as well as in the classrooms for the A1 Quilting Machines. We also enjoy running the Glide as a top thread in the booth.

And from my "neighbors" - another Texas company...thank you Gadget Girls for the donation of the stitch in the ditch ruler, a good start to a new collection for our new quilter. This will work perfect with the extended base that comes with the A1 Quilting Machine!

Thank you to Havel's for their best selling snips - these will come in sooo handy for clipping those threads!

And to sweeten the pot, I added a few of my favorite things... Havel's seam ripper for those times you have to "frog" (rip it, rip it), my favorite marking pens and eraser, Best Press, a longarm centering tape and more snips (can never have too many scissors) AND my purple longarm zippers that will be added to the take up rollers on the A1.

I can't say thank you enough for the generosity of my sponsors for making this gift basket possible - a wonderful jump start for our newest A1 quilter. Welcome to the A1 family Carol - enjoy your goodies!