Woodgrain and Woodland Animals

Woodland animals are kind of a big deal right now and they’re appearing on all kinds of baby and child decor so of course I decided to jump on the bandwagon and get some quilts made!

I found some wonderful panels (read as “already digitally printed with a variety of designs so there’s lots of cool stuff to look at and NO PIECING”) on Spoonflower.com that allowed me to get in on this craze and have some fun with modern quilting.  I chose the woodgrain stitching pattern for these because it not only fit with the theme but it stitches out pretty quickly with stunning results in texture.

I have two slightly different panels left to finish, but for now, here are the first ones along with a short video showing you how I did the quilting.

(I’m too old to keep track of these trends, but I have a daughter who lets me know about the hot items.  Seriously, what is with these bears and deer heads?  People are gobbling this stuff up!)

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Handi Quilter Glide Foot

Just a short post today to share a quick video I recorded while working on a very unique quilt top, heavily embellished with doilies, appliqués, embroidery, ribbons, beads and pearls in various designs.

The maker had already attached batting to the back in sections as she put each one together, and my job was to turn it into a full on quilt with backing and an additional batting layer, and to give it stability and texture without drawing attention away from the original work with a lot of noticeable free motion stitching.  Definitely a challenge, given that most of my usual work is very visible and detailed!

Enter my Handi Quilter Glide foot.  This bowl shaped foot allowed me to stitch around and on top of the thicker and ruffled edges of the shapes and doilies with no problems at all.  There was no pulling or stretching as I went, and because it is clear I could see everything I was doing without any obstacles.  It can be attached to the HQ longarm machines as well as the sit down Sweet Sixteen, with the turn of a screw.  I needed to switch back and forth between it and my regular hopping foot throughout the project in order to accomplish the mission, but it was changed easily and quickly.

I’ve also seen others use this when they have a thicker batting to work with as it doesn’t grab anything while it moves around the quilt.  Very HANDI 😉

(There are some new quilts to come – it’s been a weekend of updating my online business pages with new photos and such, so stay tuned!)

Central Alberta Quilt Show

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I was at the Central Alberta Quilt Show in Red Deer April 7th to spend some time doing  free motion quilting demos at the Handi Quilter booth, for Central Sewing Machines out of Edmonton.  Just thought I’d share some photos and a quick video with you.

I have to admit that my most fun time was spent doing the demos and talking to people about free motion quilting and how well this machine works; it’s such a great option for people who either don’t have room for a full frame long arm, or can’t spend a lot of time standing up to quilt.  Using this machine is very much like quilting on a domestic sewing machine but with WAY MORE SPACE to work in, making the whole process much easier and, in my opinion, more fun!

So I don’t have photos of all the lovely quilts to share with you here – I’m sure you can find those online already – my daughter was my photographer and videographer that day and once I was finished talking and teaching and sharing my passion with anyone who walked by (for over two hours straight, haha) we had lunch, checked out a few vendors, and agreed we were both done.  Thankfully the Handi Quilter booth was in a bit of an alcove set apart from the super busy and way too full of people main area of the pavilion which not only gave my brain space to focus, but put us right beside the Hamel’s Fabrics booth (Chilliwack, BC) and I have a family/friend connection there, so getting to visit with Pauline was an added bonus 🙂  I got her on the long arm machine and she had fun!

What did I buy?  Well, we all know I’m not a big stasher so I didn’t break the bank or anything LOL, but I did come away with a bag of my favourite Superior Threads from the Cotton Mill Threadworks booth!  Always need more thread …

I had a great time and was happy to be invited to participate and share my love of free motion quilting on a wider scale.

The Process

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Warning:  deep thoughts on the way …

I thought I’d carry some of the philosophical tone from my last post over to this one because I wanted to share something about the process of quilting and how it affects me and my reaction to my finished quilts.

By now, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that piecing is a means to an end for me and that most quilt tops, no matter how fancy, don’t excite me much – in fact I find a lot of them to be dull and flat – until they’re actually quilted.  Even after quilting, I only “love” some of them.  And of the ones I do love, very few escape being listed for sale in my Etsy Shop.  VERY few.

Here is one I made for myself near the beginning my my quilting journey, with fabrics I initially loved in store but then couldn’t buy enough of to make my quilt.  I eventually found it unexpectedly while on a trip along the Oregon coast and chose to make a quilt for myself and keep it as a memento of the trip.  I’m not a collector of typical souveniers and prefer to bring home things that are useful but will also serve as memories.  It hangs in my living room and once in a while I use it, but mostly it’s something I enjoy seeing because it evokes memories of the trip and of the lovely coastline and ocean waves we stopped frequently to appreciate.

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So I’m going to share some things I’ve learned that have helped me and might help some of you recognize and identify where it is along the way in your artistic endeavours that you find your greatest joy and main reasons for doing what you do.  I think when we do that, it helps us focus and makes it easier to leave behind any expectations we feel based on outside influence.

You see, I love “the process”.

My process is the planning and execution of the quilting designs.  Not the piecing, but the quilting, especially the custom quilting.  And once that process has been finished, I’m not overly attached to the finished product.  In my experience, this makes me a bit of an odd nut in the quilting world.  Let’s say an invisible minority (ie. I’m certain I’m not alone in this, but I haven’t yet met anyone in person who shares my perspective).  I’m a bit of a nut too, but that’s for another blog altogether!

I once watched a program where a lady who had made a lovely artistic looking quilt was about to cut it up into something else to demonstrate a technique.  Yes, you heard that right!  I couldn’t believe it and neither could the program hosts.   Some of her quilting had been done by hand, some was like embroidery.   But I watched as she confidently and happily laid it out on the table and began to cut it into different pieces, acting very relaxed about the whole thing as the audience gasped.  Then she showed how she was going to sew them all back together into a totally different configuration, changing the overall style of the quilt.

I didn’t get it at all until she spoke the words that resonated with me.

She said that her passion and joy was all in the process of making the quilt.  MAKING THE QUILT.  Once the quilt was made, the process was over and she was on to other projects that – through the process of making them – would bring her new joy.

That’s how I feel to a large extent about my own quilting – the actual QUILTING.  Once I survive the piecing of a quilt top, imagining the whole time how I will stitch on it, I begin the quilting process with a sense of joyful anticipation and I thrive all the way through.  When it comes off the frame or away from the sit down machine and I can see the whole thing clearly, I’m happy with what I’ve done – proud even, if it’s been a real challenge and I’ve met it – but the process is complete and something in my brain has accepted that.  I’ve usually tried and learned new things, made mistakes, figured out how to do better next time and am ready to start again to keep the process going.

Binding gives me something to hand stitch in the evenings while relaxing and catching up on my favourite tv shows, and the sooner I finish, the sooner I can move into the laundering and photographing for sale stage.  But  while I’m binding I’m already imagining the next quilting process, and the anticipation of the joy it will give me begins to build.

This explains how I can spend many hours, sometimes over days, working on a quilt only to feel little to no desire to keep it when it’s done, even if for a moment there might be a twinge of “I should” because I worked so hard.  I think that comes from a sense of what’s normally expected: 1)  what most other quilters might do with their completed project if it wasn’t already designated as a gift for someone special, 2) from a general idea that after spending so much time on something it seems strange to part with it so easily and not even care to keep it for myself, or 3) that there’s no price to be put on something with that much personal time and effort in it.  Those influences are outside of me.

Inside of me is the understanding that  – as harsh as this might sound to others – I’ve done what I set out to do and the quilt has already served its purpose for me.  It was always about the process not the quilt itself.  And the process was meaningful and fulfilling.  Most days it could be any fabric at all on my machine because I’m looking at the stitching possibilities and the fun I can have doodling on the fabric with my thread, making art.

“Be in love with your art. Every detail of it. Practice it. Create from the heart. Trust your instincts. Pay attention to details. Because art, undeniably, is conducive to happiness.” ~ Sharon Blackmore, Love Shack Quilts

It is the process that brings me joy, satisfaction and fulfillment.  It is the process that is my passion.  And that’s why I’ve been able to learn and accept that perfection isn’t necessary or even attainable in the reality of quilting.  I do my best, I practice, I progress.  It is in the doing that I find my “zen” if you want to call it that.

Of course there is also satisfaction and joy in giving a finished quilt to a special person; often it has been planned for their enjoyment and I do like making others happy by sharing my quilts, but that’s another human experience altogether 🙂

I can now understand how it is that so many people piece quilt tops and fold them up and store them while piecing more quilt tops and so on.  I imagine that is their own process, that the piecing itself is their passion, the thing that brings them joy, and once the top is done, their process is finished, and it’s time for the next top.  And if that is true – if that is YOU – then celebrate it!  I hear a lot of piecers expressing guilt feelings over having so many unfinished quilts because they aren’t actually quilting them after they sew them.  Some even express that they’re disappointed at the thought of leaving so many unfinished things behind when they leave this world.

But my thoughts on that are these:  if you enjoyed the process, you fulfilled your creative task.  When someone gets hold of your work, finished or not, there will be a new process for them; your work will not be in vain.  We just have to open our minds up a bit to see that just because we have completed something, it doesn’t mean that thing is forever to remain unchanged.  And it’s OK for someone else to pick it up where we left off and make it their own.  What a cool legacy!  Do what you love and don’t sweat it if you open a closet and see a bunch of things you haven’t done.  You did your part.

“Do what makes your soul shine”.

Have you thought about your own quilting/crafting/artistic process and which elements mean the most to you?  Have you ever taken something already finished and broken it to make it into something completely new and maybe even better?  I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Ocean Breeze

When I look at this quilt I think of the ocean.  The colors as well as the swirling designs and pebbles give me a mental picture of that place where I most feel peace and communion with nature; it really takes my breath away.  I’m not an outside person by any stretch of the imagination, with one exception: I love to stand by the ocean, looking out over the expanse of water, waves rolling in calmly, and just breathe.  Because I really do breathe more full and peacefully there.  The air is different and being in that place looking out so far past the edge of firm land gives me a sense of freedom.  Somehow, quilts in colors like this take my mind on a little trip to the coast.

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In the meantime I sit here in my northern Alberta home looking out the window at snow – yes, still snow all over the ground – thinking that once again we will move straight from winter to summer with no spring in the air.  Some years are like that here – nothing we can do about it, it just is what it is, and as long as the sun’s shining and the sky’s blue I don’t really care what the temperature is outside, because my work is being creative inside my house any day of the year.  And I have this view on my computer desktop; fake as it is, it does make me smile …

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Most quilts are straight forward fun projects that come from ideas I see elsewhere and adapt to my own preferences or patterns I’m attracted to for their custom quilting potential.  Once in a while a quilt reminds me of something totally off topic. So most often I post photos and talk only about the technical details of finishing a quilt, but here and there the more philosophical side of my brain needs a voice! haha

Now for some of that technical stuff:

This quilt was an improv exercise for me.  While it looks orderly and planned, even symmetrical, it really just started out with some pieces I had from a layer cake (Angela Walters’ Drawn fabrics in various colors).  I pulled out the blues and greens, along with some fat quarters I had on my shelf that happened to coordinate, and went to work using an idea for the centre blocks that I had seen on pinterest (the prints with the triangle sections changed out in each one).

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From there I built the quilt top on my design wall as I went along, according to the amount of fabric I had in each color for borders, until I got to the outside edge.  Then I had to leave it for a bit because I had thought it would be done at that point but I decided it needed another border of print, which is no longer available in stores.  I was lucky to find a piece on Etsy of the exact print I wanted and that border tied everything together for me.

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I love the blend of turquoises and blues and greens in this one.  Do certain quilts take your mind to a special place?

Gradient Chevrons

I finished up the quilt that I showed a sneak peek of in my last post.  It was really fun to custom quilt this one, and the chevron rows gave me well spaced zig zag sections to play in with my free motion quilting.

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I used a wool batt for this one, which makes it lovely and soft even though densely quilted.  However, it did shrink more than I expected, and for the modern look of it, I would have preferred a good polyester batting that wouldn’t have changed the texture very much.  I still love it; it just ended up looking a bit differently than I intended after it was laundered. But every day is an adventure!

I’ve ordered a handy tool to make the half square triangle process less stressful.  I will let you know how that turns out. But for now, I’m taking a break from those things!

Pinterest Adventure 16

Did you see what I did there?  I took “DAY” out of the title! LOL  Day 16 would have been back in January sometime I think, so from here on there will just be numbers to keep track of the posts, but not “days” to remind me of how many days I’ve skipped 🙂

I stitched out some designs today that I’ve been waiting to do – based on a saved pin! – and I had to piece together the quilt top first, as it was also inspired by the same pin.  And they were all half square triangles.  UGH!  There are so many cool patterns you can make by arranging half square triangles, but I hate working with them.  I know hate is a strong word.  But I often use a few stronger ones while putting these puppies together.

Yes, I know the quick method of making them and I use it, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for squaring them all up and dealing with those annoying little dog ears and the bias edges on every one of them.  However, once this came together it was quite striking.  I’ll show more photos in a later post once the quilt is bound and ready for sale.

For now, I’m focussing on the pin!  The wool batting gives such great texture to the quilting 🙂  Lots of free motion quilting and custom quilting on this one, stay tuned for the finished project post!

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Pinterest Adventure Day 15

I just noticed that my last post for my Pinterest Adventure was a month ago!  I’ve been saving more ideas, and I will definitely be stitching them out and posting photos here for you, but for now I just wanted to share this idea.

The design itself isn’t from a saved pin, but the idea is one that I’ve been reading about and wanting to try to let’s just call it a pin, OK?  Because I could have fibbed and told you that I pinned it, or I could easily have gone looking for a pin that talked about it just to be able to tell you it was one of my pins, but that’s not how I roll!  This is an honest adventure, with no expectations, and therefore, no need for deception! LOL

A few of the professionals that I learn from online talk about using two layers of batting over the whole quilt to get more definition with their quilting, depending on the project, and it looks like trapunto without actually using that technique.  So I threw a little sandwich together this morning with Hobbs 80/20 topped with Quilter’s Dream poly deluxe and stitched out this feather with a dense background filler.

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There were no obstacles to quilting with the extra thickness, I didn’t have to use a special foot for this, and it quilted out very well!  Some also use a wool batting for the upper layer to get more loft, and I’ll eventually try that as well, but I didn’t have a wool scrap laying around today.

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The definition is certainly there and the whole thing looks great – even better in person! – but the one thing I would say is that this might be very heavy and stiff on a quilt intended for cuddling.  As usual, these things are a matter of opinion because we all look for different things in our end result.  I do love the idea for a wall quilt though, as this would add to its long term stability along with giving the extra poof and texture in all the right places.  Even the pebbles pop when you look from the right angle!

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I did shoot a quick video of this process but because the top print is so busy there wasn’t really much to show you other than my machine moving around!

I’m getting ready to load a quilt that will be making use of another saved pin with some fun free motion quilting, custom quilting, and ruler work, so stay tuned! I will likely get started on it tomorrow and I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Just Gotta Quilt!

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Well, Ok, it was daytime.  But it was one of THOSE days.  You know, the piecing kind! LOL

I’m currently working on some new quilt tops in cool modern designs and that requires a lot of cutting and piecing before I can get to the quilting machine.  We’ve discussed this before, I know, but my piecing moods are a significant part of my quilting journey so I share them here hoping for just one tiny little bit of sympathy from just one other person out there who understands … anyone?  Bueller? (Generation X movie viewer memory required for that one)

Seriously, though, I got to thinking that perhaps the way I feel about piecing is like the way others who don’t enjoy the actual quilting feel about the quilting process itself.  And if it is the same, then I’m here to tell you I FEEL YOUR PAIN!

But I’m about to pull out the “my struggle is harder than yours” card, because you can piece to your heart’s content, make all the quilts you love, doing what you love, and then either fold them nicely to store on a shelf until you decide what to do with them or send them off to someone else – like me! – to do the part you really don’t like!  I, on the other hand MUST piece in order to quilt.  There’s no way around it for me.  Am I getting anywhere here?  Any sympathetic sighs?  LOL

So Friday was one of those days.  Sometimes I can get through two or three days before I hit the bad-mood-dark-cloud-end-of-my-rope stage – yup, it’s a real thing and you only have to ask the people around me to find out how irritable I become in this unfortunate situation – but other times, it’s just one day and I’m already nearing the edge of my sanity.

It didn’t help that I spent all morning cutting one piece of fabric thinking I would move on to the others and actually get started sewing by the afternoon and then found out that my math was wrong and I didn’t actually have enough of the other four colors to complete the job.  So the first and main color is all prepared, yes.  Did it help me that day?  No.

NOTE: to all the stashers out there now laughing or shaking heads at me for not keeping more fabric in stock:  you’re just being mean!!! 😂😂😂

After lunch I had to then start on a whole other piecing project which I had no hope of finishing that day, so all the time I was sewing I KNEW that I still wouldn’t have anything ready to quilt the next day and my mood was spiralling.  Thank God for chocolate.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I remembered the piece of rainbow striped fabric I had purchased and intended for a cool baby quilt, and the awesome thick polar fleece I grabbed on a roll from someone who no longer needed it, and I loaded it onto the frame. As soon as my needle hit the quilt and the stitching began, I was mentally stable again.

The struggle is real.

Here is a video of me having fun.  I will stitch this design out on a solid color for you at a later date so you can see it clearly, but for now, just be glad it’s safe to knock on my door again …

(I’m so glad y’all have such a good sense of humour!!!)

Do something you love today!  Life is short 🙂