Playing Outside the Lines

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There’s always more to learn, more motifs to try, more fillers to practice.  The lists are endless.  So I have no shortage of available ideas, especially with access to the internet.

But I recently began to feel that I needed something else.  I’m not saying “something more” because I have access to “MORE”!  Something “ELSE” is different.

I wanted to start seeing spaces differently, to learn to look past the obvious and venture into new territory.  To “unlock my brain” so to speak, in the words of a quilt artist I recently spent a very productive and inspiring private training day with, Sharon Blackmore of Love Shack Quilts.  That was our goal: unlock my brain and take my quilting to the next level.

It’s not my nature to think outside the box; I can be lead there, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.  Thus the need to “unlock” my brain!  I can plan on the fly over a wide open space, and work within the confines of blocks to accent piecing, but I knew there was more to be done somewhere in between those two.

I had loaded this client quilt (pieced by Pam Fritsche) mid-week with a definite plan for a few of the areas, basted the whole quilt so I could roll it back and forth, and started stitching the designs that were clear in my mind.  I used some of my go-tos for the centre triangles, lots of straight lines for the modern look, I knew I needed to leave space for the initials requested, and I had the big feather border stitched out before I left it.

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After my lesson day, I came home to the quilt, thinking I would just finish this one up and then start using my new vision on the next one! haha But when I started stitching the second large area around the star with the big echoed circles I felt myself getting bored (that doesn’t usually happen!).  I hit the centre of the bottom edge and immediately experienced a shift when I saw the space.

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I wanted a big change that would make a statement right there and decided I could easily build a triangle and fill it.  That was the start – yes I’ve done something like this before in wide open space, but not in the middle of a border as a contrasting element.  I stitched it out, finished off the big circles and advanced the quilt.

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I was planning to stitch a piano key border in the outside white space, but those darn grey half square triangle were mocking me.  I stared at them for a bit, trying to come up with designs to fill them in some ordered kind of way – typical! – but it suddenly hit me that I could ignore all of them and that bright orange sashing, and make my triangle a square!

This might not seem like a light bulb moment to everyone, but for me it was a breakthrough because I was seeing the space differently than usual, ignoring what was already there and making something new right on top of it.  I was playing outside the lines!  (and the angels sang… LOL)

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From there, of course, I needed to up the anti in the rest of the final area too.

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The whole time I was enjoying my new inspiration I was wishing I could go back in and change the first areas I had stitched because they would have been different at that point, but the end result was still pretty cool and I’m looking forward to my next detailed project so I can put to use more of what I learned 🙂

When I take a quilt off the frame I like to get a really good look at all the texture from various angles.  And that white on white gets me every time!

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I love that square and I love how it draws all the attention to itself.

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Do you play outside the lines? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Quilt Binding by Machine

IMG_5667I’ve been wanting to do a test to see just how neatly I could get a binding to go on if I used the machine binding method rather than my usual hand stitching.  So I finally sat down and bound a small quilt sandwich – don’t look to closely at the quilting because it’s just a test piece with lots of messy scribbling on it, not an advertisement for my machine quilting! LOL

There are differing opinions on which method looks better or lasts longer, so it’s really a matter of personal preference.  Some might choose machine binding because it’s faster, because they think it’s stronger long term, or because hand binding strains their wrists and hands.  Others might choose hand binding because they like to hand stitch in general (my mother) or because they like to have something to do in the evenings while they binge on Netflix shows…(me!)

I personally wanted to find out two things:

  1. would machine stitching all around the binding make the edge stiff or hard compared to my hand stitched bindings and
  2. would I be able to get the stitching line that shows on the back of the quilt to be straight and neat enough for my personal satisfaction

Once I was finished I laundered this piece and found that alongside a quilt with hand stitched binding, it was not stiffer, so that was good news.

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I was reasonably satisfied with the stitching, although there were a couple of areas that I wasn’t happy with.  When it comes to my free motion quilting, perfection is not the goal, and I remind my students that it is, in fact, unattainable because we aren’t machines.  Once the quilt is done, most of the little “mistakes” we might have noticed as we stitched are lost in the bigger picture (that’s not to say I never pick anything out, because I certainly do if it has really gone off track!).  But in this case, that stitching line is going to run right along the binding seam somewhat like an echo stitching line, and if it isn’t straight and neat it will be obvious, at least to me!

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Overall, I think it could work out to be acceptable and I can fine tune the areas I’m not completely happy with by working on the method a little more.  I’m not completely convinced yet that I want to change how I bind quilts in general, but I am tempted to try this method on some smaller projects that seem to take as long to bind as they do to quilt!  The test is done and it yielded better results than I expected, but the jury is still out…

Check out the video below if you’d like to watch me stitch it.  Of course, I’m talking too, so you get to hear my voice, which makes it almost like I’m right there in your house. HAHA

 

 

Faux Leather Pouches

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I recently ordered some faux leather fabric from Sew Sweetness and got around to doing a quilting test this week.  I LOVE this stuff!  I had no issues at all free motion quilting on this fabric and the results are stunning.  I started out with a big square, quilted the heck out of it and cut it up to make two zippered pouches.  Serious fun, people.

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Are you seeing the possibilities?  Head on over to Sara’s website.  She’s a self proclaimed Bag Lady!  She designs great patterns for handmade bags & pouches, has video tutorials, and offers many items in her online shop.  She’s even got cork fabric over there…hmmm…what to try next?

The video below is sped up a lot but shows how easily I’m moving around on this surface – no issues at all.

Share the Crafting Love

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I needed to write this post today because I was recently reminded by my own words of something that I try to pass on to others when I teach classes, and that is to think about “the process”.  I’ve written before about the importance of identifying our own personal processes in crafting and spending time doing what we love, not what we think we should be doing instead.  You can read more about that here.  Clearly, even I need reminders!

So the other day I was thinking about how I wanted a new blanket ladder for staging my quilt photos.  I’ve used a little bunk bed one that dates back to before I was born and it could have been painted but I wanted a more rustic looking one – stained and worn rather than painted – and because that one is mahogany, even if I stripped it the chances of getting it to be anything other than a shade of red or burgundy were next to nothing.

I finally decided one day last week that I could make one myself, using a simple pattern; I have the necessary tools and skills!  The weather had cooled to the point where I could actually work outside without dying, and I was motivated to get in the car and head for the store to buy a piece of 2X2.  Between my driveway and main street (in my town that is about 30 seconds) the following went through my mind:

  • I just have to buy a 16ft. piece, ask them to cut it into three pieces for me to fit in my car and I can do the rest.
  • I have the screws so it will be together in no time.
  • I’ll have to stain it.
  • I’ll have to clear coat it.
  • I’m tired…why am I doing this again?
  • Turn around, go home, and message Sara.

Sara is a teenager I know who paints and stains and distresses and refinishes wood furniture.  And she loves doing it.  (Their Facebook page is called “Making Beautiful Things“) She has refinished an end table for me and recently redid my old rocking chair (I was always going to do that one myself too!) and I know she will do a good job when I ask for something.

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I’ve worked with wood and refinishing in the past and I enjoyed it tremendously.  I might again at any time.  But this was not that time.  I had quilting projects I wanted to work on and having a new ladder was poking at my brain daily;  I thought that because I COULD make my own, I SHOULD make my own.  Can anyone else relate? HAHA  As creative people, I think it’s a common thing we do to ourselves.

But you see, I was not feeling the build-a-ladder love.

So I came home, messaged Sara, and it was delivered to my house this afternoon, less than one week later.  Not only did I get just what I wanted and needed but I avoided my potential frustration and supported another maker who loves her process!

And I got to thinking that really, it makes so much more sense for me to do what I love and allow myself to forego things that I can easily have someone else do for me.  In the end, it’s a win for both of us 🙂

Thanks, Sara!

 

Let it Flow

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Naming quilts isn’t my forte.

By nature, I feel the pressure to somehow come up with an inspired and interesting name for each of the more technical quilts I finish now, moreso than when I first started.

I remember when numbering them seemed like a good idea even if just for my own reference – since I make my own labels it was easy to add numbers to each one – and I only made “special” labels when giving a gift or when a customer requested some personalization after the quilt was finished.

However, I’ve now progressed to wanting special labels on most of my bigger quilts with more intricate stitching – not only for posterity but also because there’s something beautiful about a custom label on a handmade item.  No matter where the quilt ends up (and most of mine are sold) there will be a part of it that tells people who made it and when, along with where it fits in my story (numbers).  It gives me room to include a favourite quote or information about the pattern, whether it was original or not etc.

I like to sew this type onto the backing fabric before the quilting is done so my stitching goes right through the label, making it a part of the quilt itself rather than an “add-on”.  BUT I’m still not at the point where I actually remember to do that every time, and this quilt is an example of that!

So when I took this quilt off the frame and went to bind it, I noticed I had forgotten to make a label.  And if I’m going to make a label I need a name.  That little glitch then interrupted my routine of trimming and binding immediately after unloading and I had to sit down and really think about what the heck I was going to call it!  I could go on about the various things that came to mind and the mental blocks that caused delay, bit I eventually settled on “Let it Flow” because that’s exactly what I did while quilting it.

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Some of the stitching on this was practice using ideas I’ve seen and liked and wanted to try, and some of it was a complete deviation from the original plan because that’s what happens when I am in “the zone”.  So I let it flow.  No regulation (except for the ruler work), just free motion in manual mode, me and my machine learning to work together in our own unique rhythm, which is getting more fine tuned as we go along 🙂

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It was fun and therapeutic and on the practical side it gave me ideas for more quilts like this where I can work on the solid areas I love to play in with a bit of structure (using the seam lines to define my spaces) and combine colors that are trendy and fun for modern whole cloth quilt results.

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There’s a short video at the bottom showing a bit of stitching just for fun; most of this you have probably seen before in my other videos so I didn’t record a lot of detail work, just enough to give you an idea of the process I used 🙂

 

 

Custom work on a family tree quilt

I recently custom quilted this family tree wall hanging with appliquéd leaves.  My client had the project passed on to her for completion by an aging family member whose wish it was to have it finished after she could no longer work on it.  It is a lovely piece, and the maker took care to use differing shades of green for the leaves representing each generation.

I love trees and the process of quilting with woodgrain and leaf designs, so I really enjoyed putting the finishing touches on this quilt.  I’ve included a video at the bottom to show how I used my HQ Glide foot to make moving around those fused appliqués a breeze.  Passing over all those names as I stitched and knowing a bit of the background that went into the project, my experience of quilting this one was unique; it kind of had a life of its own.  While I’m not connected to this family at all, bringing all of the previous work to life with my quilting made me feel like a little part of myself landed somewhere on that tree 🙂

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Painted Ladies Quilt Project

A lot of photos appear as I’m scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed each day, and many of them are crafty things because, of course, Facebook knows what I look at online and makes sure to flash me more of the same!  I see various quilt-y pictures, especially when friends share patterns and such, and one day I was particularly glued to a post about the Painted Ladies Quilt.  The design is based on the row houses of San Francisco.

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I think house quilts are cute in general, but I’ve never felt like I had to make one, until I saw the one my friend shared; I was immediately drawn to the rows of feathers quilted between the rows of houses, and the fact that these houses were on an angle.  I clicked the link and ended up finding Love Shack Quilts and Sharon Blackmore (she quilted the one in my friend’s photo) who I didn’t know before but have now met in person.  You can hear more about that in the video at the end of this post 🙂

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It was a stretch for me to track down the pattern and purchase it, not being an avid buyer of books or patterns myself, but I found it and started looking for fabrics.  I had a color palette in mind but just couldn’t quite get it together; I wanted to use pre-cuts to get a wide variety of prints so I finally decided to go with the most appealing collection I could find instead of waiting forever to find exactly what I’m still looking for and end up not making the quilt at all! LOL  I’m pretty sure I will be making this one again 🙂

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It turned out pretty cute and, as my above mentioned friend calls it, “folksy”.  It wasn’t an intense piecing project so I got through it without incident and I do recommend the pattern!  I kept track of the hours on this one because I’m often asked how long it takes me to make a quilt from start to finish and I thought it would be fun to record some clips of my process and have a complete video documenting the whole project.  That video is below, so check it out if you’re interested in seeing how it all came together!  The details are at the end so grab a coffee before you start…

Feather Pizzaz

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I prepared a sample and a promo video for a feather class I’ll be teaching in the fall –  which meant doing several individual recordings and then editing them down to a bite sized clip – and once it was all done I thought it might be fun to share the photos and video here for my readers as well 🙂  The promo title screens have been removed in this version, because you don’t need class info, but you can see the variety of designs and listen to some funky music while you’re at it!

Here are some close-up shots of the different sections of the class sample, video is at the end.

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Even after all this stitching on a 36″ square mini, I’m still looking at it like “there are so many more things we could do with feathers here!”  However, while I could go on and on until the fabric runs out, I’m sure the students will eventually need to go home … haha

Only love can build a home…

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I recently finished quilting this wall hanging for a client and while I don’t always post about each customer quilt I do, sometimes there’s something specific I would like to share and I can use the project as an example.

When I’m working on a panel of any size or style, there are decisions to make about how to take it from flat to textured without interfering with the artwork already present.  A pieced quilt top will generally have a little bit of dimension already with the various seams going on, but with a panel you are basically working with a flat picture.  When it’s a baby quilt, I try to keep it more open (less dense) and often the shapes and pictures are large enough to outline and work inside of without adding too much stiffness.

On a wall hanging, the density is more welcomed and can actually help in the end to keep everything stabilized so that it doesn’t droop on the wall.

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This one has a lot of detail all over it so I was dealing with grass and trees and buildings and people and sky and … you get the picture, literally! haha So I wanted to give it lots of texture and at the same time keep certain areas from becoming too densely stitched so they would pop up (or “off” the wall) for dimension.  In this case, I chose to let the buildings pop and pack down the landscape.  So they got some thread work – leaving them totally unquilted would definitely cause those areas to droop when it hangs – but just enough to bring them to life.  the blending thread lets you see the texture but not necessarily all the stitching.

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I LOVE this old white house; I think it’s my favourite part.  It reminds me of the Waltons 🙂