Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Row By Row Sailboats

Row--row---row your boat! Row made by Connie Vagtborg

I was so excited when I got a call from Connie at Stepping Stones Quilts back in May.
They are part of the nation-wide (and Canada, too!) Row By Row Experience quilt shop hop this Summer. This year's theme is Seasons, and each shop has a free pattern for a row celebrating a season they love. Sailboats for Summer was a great choice for St. Simon's Island, GA!

Connie's idea of the Sailboat block was perfect...who needs to do a hard block during the lazy days of Summer? But I was familiar with both this block and Row Quilts, not to mention quilters in general! I knew there were few things to consider:

Sizes have to be numbers that are actually on your ruler! I don't like to use anything too small to find. Those tiny measurements can be left to the woodworkers. Many quilters are married to woodworkers, don't you know. They also like to cut things up and put them back together in a new way!

Row quilts are so much fun, but the rows may touch each other. I thought it would be good for the Sailboats to have a little space of sky above their sails. That makes it much easier to sew without losing the triangle points! Plus, you don't have to add a sashing strip to divide it from another row.

Quilters like options! Somebody always has a "what if..." idea, and I say try it! So I added a simple block I called Open Sea, which is just the sky and water. It could separate the sailboats, and provide another area for embellishments.

Embellishments...oh, my...there is nothing like a simple block to get the creative juices flowing! I won't spoil your fun with any suggestions...though there may be a few on the pattern page, and certainly visiting Stepping Stones will inspire you.

If you like to shop hop, check out the Row By Row Experience. It runs July 1 to September 2. Especially if you're travelling around this Summer, you'll want to see the list of shops where you'll be.
And you haven't been to St. Simon's Island, go now! It's a beautiful place to visit with lots of historical sites...as well as one of my favorite quilt shops!

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  I neglected to publish this post a few weeks ago, but lots of the Row By Row quilts are showing up on Facebook and in other places! Everyone seems to be having loads of fun with the project, competing to be the first one to finish a top and take it one of the sponsoring shops. There have been a lot of creative interpretations of the rows, too!

Heirloom UFO

"Pink 9-Patches" Nettie B. Eichhorn
73" x 82 top (detail)
Going through a bag of old crochet, embroidered linens and other handwork, I came upon this sweet 9-Patch top. The rosy pink and and assortment of striped fabric blocks are 4" square and set with plain fine muslin squares and a 6" muslin border.

This was one of my Mom's collections of stuff, which may be from family members or maybe were just something she picked up in an antique store. Since I had sorted out the actual family quilts years ago, I figured this was something I might add to the vintage section of the sale room when QuiltFest opens Sept. 24.
I turned it to the back side and noticed that it was sewn with the most perfect hand stitches you could hope to see.

Then I heard the tell-tale crackle of a little slip of paper... and I knew this was another family treasure, carefully labeled by my Dad's mother. This is not the first time I have been thankful for her multitude of notes pinned or dropped inside an item!
It turns out this top was made by my great grandmother...but there's still a little mystery. The note has her name as "Nettie Brookover (Eichhorn)". Does that mean she made it before she was married? There is a wonderful quilt that she "made in her teens", so it's possible. 
She was born in 1873 and died in 1930. If you have seen my talk about Family Quilts, you may remember this one that she made...the quilting pattern is simple, but the stitches are exquisite:
"Double Wedding Ring" Nettie B. Eichhorn
84" squar
So now I have yet another heirloom UFO! 
Do not bother to look for it on sale at QuiltFest. This one is staying at home!

I'm committed to hand quilting the LeMoyne Stars from my Mom's side of the family (and no, I have NOT started it yet!). I'll have to give this one some serious thought.
It's almost a shame to cover up those lovely stitches in the piecing!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Scraps & Quirky Bits with the Thimblebuddies

Last week the QuiltMobile was loaded up and headed south to Port St. Lucie, FL!
Just space left for my suitcase!

The Thimblebuddies get together monthly and have a covered dish dinner right before the meeting starts. What a great idea for the ones who are coming right from work! 

I had been asked to talk about scraps, so we discussed  "The Seven Habits of Highly Collective Scrap Lovers" (with thanks to Stephen R. Covey). Handouts included a list of the habits, some great websites to visit, and even a chart of How To Cut Scraps from Yardage, in case you don't have any.
They had plenty, though!
Two Quirky Bits on the left...what a load of scrap quilts!
We had a good time laughing and learning about the best ways to use scraps.
This guild has quite a few community service projects. To help everyone participate, they recently had a Cutting Bee to create kits for some of the quilts they make. That's a great idea for moving along fabric donations.

The following day, 15 ladies came for the Quirky Bits class. 
Almost everyone was using the 1.5" strips (which is cuter than using 2.5"). Variety is the key to success, so first we learned how to make Super Scrappy 9-Patches and really mix up all those strips!
If you're making a mess, you're not having fun!
The Thimblebuddies (and a couple from the Crazy Quilters, another area guild) were wonderful about trading to get the widest possible variety. They traded both strips and sewn sections. Besides strolling around the tables and looking over what each person brought, we also had a display where you could put up some sections to be "adopted".
Sew a few...take a few!
One lady was making a monochromatic red & white quilt, and was able to find quite a few new reds to supplement her collection. Another had rather solid-looking fabrics and decided to add more prints. Everyone quickly saw that the more fabrics you put together, the happier they all are!
Red, white & blue...always a classic scheme!

After lunch we talked about how to do a diagonal set, which is how Quirky Bits is put together.
I had half a quilt done as a sample, and rest in rows, so we could see exactly how that set works. 

Then there was a request for another Mile a Minute demo, as some of the ladies had not been at the meeting the night before...so we did that! 
And then I did a demo of rotary cutting when you have a huge piece of yardage to deal with.  I think the piece I brought was 6 yards long! One lady liked it so much, she asked to trade some of her black & white for some of mine. That's what I call a win-win situation! (Covey's rule # 4!).

By the end of the day we were just about all scrapped out. But it sure was fun!
Quirky Bits and friends
OK, now this is the place where Cherry-cherry would say, "You should mention that your Quirky Bits pattern can be purchased! Just click on the Patterns for Sale tab at the top of the blog!"
So now I have mentioned it!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Colorful threads from Artfabrik

Don't you just love to open the mailbox and find something that is not a bill or junk mail?
And if there's a package in there, even better!

This is what I found:
Such beautiful colors!!!

Ooooooo! Perle cotton thread from Artfabrik, hand- dyed by the wonderful Laura Wasilowski!
I purchased several skeins in her booth at the Paducah AQS show last month, and, of course, I had to have more.
Left to right: Degas (blues), Spice Road (gold-red-purple....I used up a whole skein already, which led to this order), Asters (be still my multi-colored heart!), Pumpkin Patch (gold-green-orange), Nasturtium (pink to yellow), Chocolate Squash (brown to gold...such fun names!), and Grass Green.

My real project is embroidering a denim jacket (which I will continue to threaten showing to you) but I have also been admiring the use of hand-stitching embellishments on art quilts.
I took a CRAFTSY class taught by Laura and had fun doing some fused fabric pictures along with the embroidery. If you want to learn a craft or quilting technique, I highly recommend Craftsy for a good online class. They also run lots of sales and specials, making the prices extremely reasonable.

One of the best things I learned in Laura's class, "Hand Stitched Collage Quilts", was a good way to handle all the thread you need to have available.
First you need a big circle/ ring...I used an acrylic bracelet that belonged to my Mom, but I would never wear!

First untwist the skein so it's still wound in a big loop. Cut right through it in one place, keeping the threads together with a bend in the middle.

Place the bend down through the ring and then bring it up around the cut ends (the cut ends go through the bend like a loop). Any scouts or sailors out there? Is that a half-hitch knot?
When you want a thread, pull it from the bend part, and it slides out...the threads may pull up a bit, but they smooth right out again. Best of all, it's a perfect length!
http://www.artfabrik.comHere's how my threads look:

It's like a personal rainbow!
I am amazed that the threads are not all tangled together, since I wrap them around the ring to fit into a bag.
But they really are not tangled!
NOT tangled! Just messy!
Laura's Artfabrik site has a load of good tutorials, especially if you like to fuse fabric. 
Excuse me for now...I am itchin' to be stitchin'!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

More National Survey of Quilting

I filled out all 16 pages of the survey, and here is my reward:
It was good, and it cost 99 cents at the grocery!
To clarify the previous post, the "Dedicated Quilters" were not the only ones of 2,500 to receive the in-depth survey. They were sent to all sorts of quilters who answer the initial questionnaire, and some of the multiple choice answers reflected that.
One of my favorites was right at the start when you could describe yourself as a Collector, Quiltmaker, Enthusiast, Artisan, Professional, or "Quilt Appreciator: I enjoy looking at quilts and reading about quilting but I have never made, and I don't plan to make, a quilt."

I love that! Whenever someone says they "could never make a quilt", I always tell them they don't have to... we need people to appreciate quilts, too!

Many questions allowed several choices, which was good for capturing what quilters really do and think.
I want to share a couple questions with you...how would you answer these?

Why do you make quilts?
12 choices there, including the popular "Other" with a line to fill in.

In the past 30 days how many hours total did you work on quilts (which included attending classes, meetings and any other related activities.) That was followed by:
In the next 3 years do you plan to spend the more time, less time, or the same amount of time making quilts?

It seems to get even more specific as it goes on:
How many hours per week do you spend working on quilts?
In the past year, approximately how many of each of the following projects did you start?
That included 8 sizes, fashion, functional items and dolls!
I had to look at my calendar to even make a guess at some of this!

One of my favorites was:
What are some of the reasons you don't finish a quilt project?
They had 10 choices there. Would you mark this: "Make a mistake and abandon the project"?

I did mark "Find a new project I'm more interested in."
This one, with the one above, gave me pause to think about UFOs. Some of those are started and not done...until 10 years later! 

They had a list of 46 techniques you may have used in the past 12 months, and might be planning to use in the next year! That was good review. The list meant I didn't have to recall everything I'd tried, and I was pleased with the 22 I marked.

In the middle of the survey is 4 pages of TOOLS & SUPPLIES: do you own that item? Purchased in the past year? Plan to purchase? Purchase in person at a shop/show, online or mail order?
Yes, there were many times I was glad this is an anonymous survey because it proceeded to ask about amounts of money spent.
So ask yourself, in the past 12 months, how much have you spent on "miscellaneous" quilting supplies? Not including fabric (that takes it's own entire section). 
And what is the value of all the tools, equipment and supplies (not fabric!) you own...the cost to replace them all if you had to buy them all today!
Some of us have been quilting for so long that everything has doubled in price since we started!

I was doing OK until they asked the same questions about fabric.
Really, how much fabric do you have in your stash? And what would it cost to replace it all, at today's prices? ***
I tend to count my fabric about the same way I keep track of calories and "serving sizes"!
Batik stash... because you can't just have one!
(yes, that is  a laundry basket on the bottom)
The survey goes on to ask specifically about thread (I had to guess, I cannot count that high), sewing machines (5?), quilt shows (unfortunately, I do know how much I spent to go to Paducah!), and computer use. Whew!

Time to mail this survey in it's post-paid envelope and bid a fond farewell! I have done my bit for the Quilt Industry, and hope to see it remain healthy and growing for many years!
***who remembers how thrilled and yet aghast we were to pay $5 per yard for a yard of that new metallic accented Hoffman print???

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The National Survey of Quilting in America!

Every three years or so the quilting industry does a huge survey to find out who is quilting and--even more importantly---what does that person want, and how much will she spend? (I can ignore the occasional "he", so I'm sure the male quilters can ignore the "she" until English starts using some non-gender pronoun).
The DP Research firm starts with 20,000 surveys in general, then, of the people who call themselves "Dedicated Quilter", they send an in-depth survey to about 2,500.
I am a Dedicated Quilter!
My opinions:  Not 2 cents worth, but 100!
Have you ever received this survey? I have been in on it a couple times, but not for awhile.
In 2010 the dedicated quilter was female, age 62, had a higher education, and 2.7 sewing machines!
You can read more results here.

The survey has eight 2-sided pages, so there a lot of questions. I am happy to be part of this study, but some of those questions really cause some deep thought. When someone wants to know the total amount you spent on fabric in the last 12 months...and you've just been to Paducah...well! It can be close to soul-searching!
I'll be sure to fill it out honestly, and then mail it back before anybody else gets a glimpse! It is, fortunately, both confidential and anonymous!

And I will need to use that nice "dollar bill token of appreciation" for my "efforts" to get a big chocolate candy bar.

The results usually come out for Quilt Market in the Fall...until then, when I come to an interesting question, I'll share with you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Machine Quilting A Special Motif

Why is it a good idea to carefully press the quilt top and pick off any excess threads?
Because those threads will come back to haunt you...especially on a white piece!
Tools of the trade: a pin and the teeniest crochet hook possible
Yes, it is better to deal with them before you have spray basted the quilt layers!
I thought it was nasty to fish them out back in the days of pin-basting...but I am here to tell you, there is no place to go once those layers are glued together!!!

Sometimes I just pretend they are not there, but on this quilt I had a place to do a special quilt motif...so of course, it had to be were there was a big dark thread. But now it is gone!
You gently wiggle the hook between some threads in the fabric, and then attempt to snag the intruder. Once it has been removed, rub the hole, 
and the threads should close up again. This is one reason for using 100% cotton fabrics, as silk or polyester will not close up again!

I wanted to put some Korean Wedding Ducks on this quilt, because they are on the wedding invitation.
A pair of decorative ducks are often given to a couple when they marry. The ducks are on display in the home, and when the couple is happily getting along, the ducks are facing each other. If things are not going well, the ducks are looking the other way! What a great visual clue. I think everyone should have ducks to tip off their guests, in-laws and maybe even their spouse!

The invitation and the quilt motif

I found a nice duck image and then copied it and reversed one so I'd have the pair facing. They have patchwork wings, too! So I drew it all onto TearAway stabilizer and pinned it on the quilt in the spot I had planned.
Happy ducks!
Next I free-motion stitched around the shapes, and then pulled off the stabilizer.
Duck on the left still has stabilizer
After that I echo quilted in some more water ripples and added the cloud-like motif from the other sections as sky.
It worked!
I am rather pleased with this little touch. The fact that the Sharpie I used for tracing seems to have transferred a bit onto the fabric actually helps. We'll see what happens after I wash the quilt!

Join me tomorrow for Quilting Fudge Factors, or This Has Happened So Often I Just Go On Ahead Because I Know What To Do!