Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I love their publication "Studios" and am going to purchase the Fall 2009 issue as soon as I can. It's so fun to look at where other people create, and inspiring too!
I'm not sure how "inspiring" my studio will be but I hope you enjoy checking it out. I hope to see you back here beginning on October 3rd.
Has anyone else noticed an increase in crazy people out there? Maybe it's the economy, or people not being raised properly, or just plain out and out craziness, but I've noticed a lot less civility lately.
I live in a small city where generally people seemed to get along pretty well. It's not perfect but compared to my experiences living in Oakland, I thought I'd arrived in nirvana. I walk my dog everyday and meet the nicest people in the park, and have had mostly gracious and easy interactions with my neighbors.
So, what happened yesterday really threw me for a loop. I wasn't going to post about it but since this blog is called "The Cranky Quilter" and this experience made me very cranky I guess it applies.
My son and I were leaving our house to go visit his grandparents. We got down to the end of the street, realized we'd forgotten something and headed back down to our house. Now, you have to understand our street has speed bumps about every 10 yards because it's near a high school and the kids were using it as a speedway. Going any faster than the posted speed limit of 15 is virtually impossible, unless you want to destroy your vehicle.
So, I pulled up to my house, got out of my car and was verbally assaulted by a male neighbor about 3 houses down on the other side of the street. He was washing his car in the street and had half of it blocked, so when I drove past I had to go fairly close to him. However, as I stated I couldn't have been going even 15 miles an hour. . . and his car was in the middle of the street where it was blocking half the road.
He screamed at me all kinds of obscenities, said that I had to "slow down" and I didn't have to drive so "f........n fast." The scariest part was when he started walking towards me. At this point he was still about 20 yards away, so I told him that if he had a problem that he could call the cops and ran into my house. My son was still in the car, fortunately locked in, so as soon as I saw the neighbor had backed off I ran out to the car, got in and took off down the other side of the street.
I probably should have called the cops but I admit the whole thing really threw me! I will admit that this guy is a bit of jerk, he's always using the street as an addition to his house, hanging out in it with his friends and dogs, but until that time he hadn't said two words to me. I had no idea he was a screaming lunatic.
Of course I called my husband who said he'd take care of it, and he will. This neighbor is often out in the street so the next time he sees him he's going to have a "conversation" with him and let him know that if he EVER approaches me again that I will be calling the police.
Suffice it to say the rest of my day was ruined, I shook for hours, and my son was a wreck. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to call the police when it happened, but who knows, maybe he already regrets his actions and he'll leave us alone in future. Calling the cops might have made it worse.
Have any of you had an experience like this? I'm having a hard time feeling comfortable even walking out to my car, or out to the mail box. I wish I understood why people do things like this!
And it's cramping my quilting style!
I want to "feel groovy" again . . .
Monday, September 28, 2009
My son is home from school for the next two weeks and we have a short trip planned next week so my posts may be erratic. I'm hoping to continue to post daily as it's a great motivating factor for me. I'm enjoying the sharing part almost as much as the sewing part!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The first compartment has my needle and pin cases. These are double sided and magnetized, and they have a tight lid on each side. They're by Generation Y and I bought them at Tuesday Morning recently, (they might still have some in stock, they also had Fiskars 12 inch rulers for 1.99 . . . it's a great place for craft supplies!).
I use one for needles. One side of the case has unthreaded needles. The other has needles that still have enough thread on them to use. Since I switch colors a lot, instead of removing the thread and re-threading with another color, I just save the threaded needle and use the color somewhere else.
Another case is for pins. I have a selection of empty pins on one side, and the other side has pins that have been threaded with beads. When I'm doing beading I will usually thread my beads on a pin and then stick the pin into the arm of my chair. It's easy to access the beads I need this way, and when I have leftover beads I just leave them on the pin and put them in the case for future use.
The third case I use for embellishments that I'm going to be using a lot. In this case it's the Butterfly Body Buttons. I use the other side for my templates.
The next two sections are for thread and miscellaneous embellishments. I have my variegated threads on plastic bobbins, and cut lengths of solid thread tucked into the side. I also have a small ziplock bag where I put my leftover strands of thread. My sequins and a selection of buttons are also in ziplock bags.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I didn't mention this previously but before I got started embellishing the butterflies I made templates of the wings. I started playing around with them and made some templates that I could use to make sure that my designs were the same on both sides. It's difficult for them to be perfect which is OK with me because I think a lot of the charm lies in the little imperfections, (and it's a great way to ignore my shortcomings!).
The butterfly above was actually the last one I finished, but I think it's my favorite. I love chain stitching! It's a great way to fill in space and give depth without the hassle of satin stitch, (which I love but don't do well).
This butterfly had some of my favorite color combinations. I love pink, red, orange, lime green and turquoise. They look like a bag of Jolly Rancher Candies, (stop salivating Susan!). I didn't have two of either the pink or red polka dot buttons at the base of the wings, so I decided to mix them up. It adds a bit of interest . . . and more imperfection. Yippee!!!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I fully intended to do as I said, but unfortunately, life reared its' ugly head and I had to go to a parent/teacher conference, and help my son study for his final exams. Only one more exam tomorrow and it's all done, yippee!!!
Of course, that means he'll be on break for two weeks so I may get behind again. But it's better to get behind having fun, then get behind having flashbacks about cramming for exams!
Now, back to the butterflies . . .
Above is the first butterfly I embellished. If you remember the last time I posted I talked about second thoughts about over-embellishing the butterflies.
Restraint is difficult for me, (my philosophy is that more is always better!), but in this case I think I made the right choice.
I'd already blanket stitched around the wings. Next I added the butterfly's "body." I really hate trying to applique another piece of fabric, especially a small piece, over the part where the wings meet. It's thick and uneven because of the stitches. I could have embroidered over it but I'd have the same problem of an uneven surface. So, I made BBB's, "Butterfly Body Buttons."
By stitching the body down first I knew where I needed to start beading. I'd already tried several ways of doing this on my sample, so now it came down to deciding where to start.
I like to stop things halfway or go off in an unpredicatable direction because it makes the piece more interesting. Sometimes I take it to extremes, but I have a real problem doing what's "predictable." Whenever I do do the obvious thing I live to regret it.
So, I beaded halfway up, changing the color of the beads throughout but making sure they were the same on each side. I rarely use all of the same beads in something unless I want it to stand out. If you use a mix of bead colors and types you get the overall texture and shimmer, without it smacking you in the face that it's beaded.
You can also control what someone sees by how you lay out the beads. In this case I wanted to differentiate the bottom from the upper part of the wing. By adding the line of solid seed beads towards the top, it gives the wing the look of being two different pieces, even though it isn't.
The same goes with the buttons and stitching I did in the center. I used the fabric pattern to decide where to place everything. By putting the larger buttons on the bottom it focuses the eye on the butterfly's body, then the bright green buttons draw the eye up and out. This makes the butterfly visually appealing. It also helps that the buttons are bright orange and will integrate beautifully with the interior of the quilt.
I really enjoyed doing this butterfly and am looking forward to working on the rest. I'll post them as I finish them.
Monday, September 21, 2009
However, I plan to get that last butterfly on and get started on embellishing tomorrow.
For now, a few things that occurred to me as I was stitching this weekend. Originally I'd planned to heavily embellish the butterflies with beads but I'm having second thoughts. If I go over the top with the butterflies, then I'm stuck having to do the same with whatever I'm putting in the center, (which I haven't decided on yet). It's just another example of how you can get ahead of yourself.
So, I think I'm going to go light on the embellishment for now, and perhaps add more once I figure out what the rest of the piece is going to be. I often go whole hog in the beginning and then I'm stuck putting more into the rest of the piece than it needs. I like to have things balanced so over-embellished butterflies means that I have to come up with something I can equally embellish for the pieced section. I'm not sure if I want to put myself in the position of having to do that when less might have been better.
In the meantime, the photo at the top of this blog is of a quilt that I pieced during my recent frenzy. I have some circle "frames" that I'm going to applique over the raw edges of the circles so it'll have a reverse applique look. I like to have a project like this ready to go because sometimes I'm in a hand stitching mood and this is the perfect thing to work on.
Well, that's all for tonight. It's finals week and I promised my son that I'd quiz him on Mesopotamia!
Friday, September 18, 2009
I was thinking today about how hard it is to find time to quilt. I'm luckier than most because I run my own little business out of my home, so technically I should have at least a few hours each day to devote to quilting.
It never works out that way. Between emails, phone calls, marketing my business, and creating new products it's hard not to feel guilty taking any of that time for myself. Not to mention that I have a house to clean, meals to prepare, shopping to do, my son to drop off and pick up at school, homework to supervise, and a husband who needs me.
I try to do all of my business when my son is at school, then it's time for homework, dinner, and spending time together as a family. When I used to work for another company from home I found myself working in the evenings a lot and I swore that when I ran my own company I wouldn't do that unless absolutely necessary. So, now once homework is done I shut the computer down, put the sewing stuff away and focus on my family.
The one positive thing about having quilting as a passion is that there are places you can squeeze it in. I actually have a cabinet in our entertainment center where I store my hand sewing supplies, and an Ottlite lamp by my chair. Most of my sewing happens there, with my family around me and the little dog trying to squeeze between me and the arm of the chair.
It's a cozy scene and when it's cold outside and the fireplace is on, it really is the perfect place to be.
So even though lack of sewing time is one of the main things that makes me cranky, having my family around helps soothe it a bit. It's great to be needed and I realized that even more while my son's been away. It drives me crazy when he needs me all the time, but I missed him needing me, annoying me, loving me . . .what's a mom to do?
Anyway, enough of that, he'll be home in an hour or so driving me crazy again!
I'm still working on stitching the butterflies onto the "Creative Journey" quilt and I'm a little over half done so I'm thinking of taking a blogging break this weekend. I'll be back on Monday, hopefully with an embellished butterfly or two.
Happy Stitching and Have a Great Weekend!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
However, quilting is a great distraction, so instead of dwelling on my empty nest, I've continued working away on my "Creative Journey" quilt.
Before we get to that I'd like to talk a little bit about thread choices. For my sewing machine I prefer Gutermann, I also use their quilting thread for hand quilting. However, my all time favorite thread is embroidery floss! Particularly variegated flosses.
DMC has a wonderful line called "Color Variations." I make sure I always have at least one skein of each in my thread box at all times, (it's one of my favorite things to buy with those craft store 40% off coupons!).
The floss has great color and sheen, and it seems to handle better than the regular DMC floss, (although that might be my imagination because I love it so much!). A few years ago I was lucky enough to come across a sale of a set of all DMC floss colors. They were in 2 yard pieces and I bought two sets. Now I keep a running list of colors I've run out of to pick up at the next 4/$1.00 sale. There are certain colors that I go through like crazy so I buy extra skeins and put them away for when I run out of what's in my "color box."
The quilt above is part of my 2nd prize winning entry in the 2007 Kaufmann Quilt Quest. This handbag was so much fun because I got to embellish each individual square, and unusually for me in this case I didn't try to carry the colors into the next square. I think it makes the embroidery and beadwork stand out even more. As you can see I used a lot of embroidery floss! I use it for applique because the color selection makes it possible for me to match any fabric, and as a single strand it's not too thick for beading. It can be frustrating at times because it can get fuzzy, tangled, and break, but in my case the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Yesterday I went off to stitch my butterflies down. I was able to get about 1/4 of them done last night. As you can see I used the buttonhole stitch and selected thread that would complement the colors in the wings, and hopefully tie them into the colors in the pieced section.
This is a corner butterfly showing the interest the variegated thread creates around the edges.
I focused on keeping the outside of the wings as perfect as possible so I started and ended where the two wings join together in the middle. I'm sure I'm going to cover up at least a part of that space so putting those awkward beginning and ending stitches there makes good sense.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
On this project I decided to go in a different direction than usual and fuse the applique pieces to the quilt. So far, so good.
Now since I don't have a lot of experience with fused applique I decided to try a few different ways of finishing the wings.
I often do sample swatches of techniques to make sure I'm on the right track. In this case I used the background fabric with the batting and backing. I also fused the wings onto the swatch so I could practice on a surface as close to the actual quilt as I could get.
I have a cute little Janome machine that has a "buttonhole" stitch option. Unfortunately, it's hideous! Yikes! It doesn't help that I need some practice using my machine for purposes other than straight stitching. So, after one go that option was definitely out of contention!
The second option was to back stitch around the wing and let the fusing hold it in place. I then went back and threaded beads into the stitches. This option's OK, and I might use it somewhere on the piece, but it makes me nervous that I'm not stitching directly into the wing. I probably need to get over that, but for now I'll stay in my comfort zone.
My third option is to do a hand buttonhole stitch. It's hard to keep this stitch even, but if I take my time I should be able to get it close enough. I like that the embroidery floss I'm using gives the edges extra bulk and color. I also played with different ways of inserting beads, or attaching them after the buttonhole stitch was done.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Actually, I'm kind of liking this "Creative Journey." It's forcing me to do a little everyday, and also to really look at what I do and how I do it. Sometimes it's a little frightening when I realize that I'm not so "free and easy" as I thought, (yesterday's post is indicative of that). I guess all of that training I had is so ingrained in me that I don't think of it as being geeky, but as just being how things get done.
I actually have a certification in Apparel Design, and while taking those courses had a wonderful teacher. This woman had been a coutourier in San Francisco during the 50s and 60s. She could make anything from shoes to hats and her class was in hand sewing technique. Her goal was for us to learn all of the rules . . . just so we'd know how to break them!
I break a lot of rules, I'm a bad, bad, girl . . .but sometimes it pays off.
The picture above is a detail shot of a handbag I made for the Robert Kaufmann 2008 Quilt Quest. As you can see it's embellished to the hilt, but what you can't see is the seed beed fringe that went around the edges. I don't think I could have made that handbag if I hadn't learned good technique, and if I hadn't broken a few rules. It won first place and netted me a new sewing machine, (which I desperately needed).
Good technique is something that isn't taught often enough. So many people nowadays are dependent on their sewing machines for both piecing and quilting. I'm all for it, and actually wish I could afford one of those machines that does the quilting that looks like hand sewing, alas, poor me . . .
However, if you are fortunate enough to learn how things should be done from the ground up you know what will and won't work, you'll be less frustrated, have more confidence, and will have a lot fewer "WIPs" that are unfinished due to "technical difficulties."
When I was at university I took a costume course, (it was one of a choice of electives I had to take). I thought I'd ace the class and I did. The shocking thing to me is how many people who wanted to make costume design their career knew nothing about sewing. I was the hero of the costume shop because I knew how to sew in zippers, ( I learned that at 10).
I made an enemy for life when one of the "airy-fairy" designers decided to do floor length medieval dresses out of stretch velour, cut on the bias. I remember standing at the cutting table and blurting out "You can't do that!" The designer looked at me like I was a nutcase but the instructor asked me why not. Well, silly me went into a description of what would happen to those dresses as they were worn and hung on the hangers. I told her that the weight of all that fabric would be bad enough cut on grain, but on the bias she'd have dresses growing a foot a day in length and that they would be so stretched out that she'd be lucky anyone could wear them.
Of course I was ignored, the dresses were made, and they actually were about 6 feet longer by the end of the show run. The actresses hated them! The designer hated me! Then the instructor offered me a spot in his advanced design program! I turned him down, I wanted nothing to do with those folks. Besides that designer kind of freaked me. I was afraid I'd end up with a pair of scissors in my back . . . and that hot glue gun was scary too . . .
I guess the point is that learning technique is a good thing and cutting stretch velour on the bias is a bad thing. (And don't mess with crazy wannabe costume designers!)
Getting back to my butterflies . . .
Yesterday I realized that my mathematical wonder-jig wasn't perfect. Actually, the jig was perfect but the quilt was not, (which may be why it was stashed away and not completed...what else don't I know about that piece???).
Anyway, I wasn't too freaked out about it as I knew I could still make it work, and I did.
I laid the jig in the corner first, lining up the notches to make sure they were at the top edges of the binding and that the butterfly was properly lined up in the corner. I then put the wing pieces inside the butterfly "stencil," used a couple of fingers from one hand to hold them in place until I could lift the jig up so that the wings wouldn't move from their spots. Then I quickly fused them in place.
A quick note about the jig. I suggested that you cut outside the lines when cutting out the wings. It's better if the cut-out section is a little bigger than the actual wing pieces. If the jig is cut too tight, then you won't be able to remove the jig without disturbing the wings.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Anyway, I haven't forgotten our "Creative Journey" but am just trying to avoid attacking the most difficult and least fun part of the process, at least from my point of view!
Before I can go further I have to fuse the "wings" to the border. Because I went with butterflies I'm going to have to make sure that they are laid out correctly and that the shape is the same. That's where a "jig" comes in, (and take my word for it, you'll want to dance one when you get through this process!).
Most quilters call these templates but I prefer the woodworking term "jig" because it's more fun. I make jigs all of the time for my real job. When you're making 300 favors, you need to make sure that the labels, cards, etc., line up correctly everytime. A jig will make the process faster and easier, and make it possible to ask your husband to help you finish something up. Give him a jig and he can do it too, (and in my Irish husband's case, play one on his guitar when he's done!).
In this case you'll need a sheet of card stock. I cut it in half so I have two pieces 5.5"x8.5." One piece will be for the corner, the other for the sides.
Let's start with the corner piece.
My border is 2" wide so I used my ruler to draw a fascimile of the corner of my quilt. I then drew a line from the outside to the inside corner so I can place the wings centered. I then took a couple of the actual pieces and laid them out until I found a placement I liked. I then traced around only one of the wings.
Now I line them up and use the ruler to make sure the lines are straight. I use a piece of masking tape on the bottom and then wiggle the top to line everything up. Once I'm content I slowly slide the ruler up and use another piece of masking tape to hold the top together. Now I have one piece! Just to make sure everything stays in place I'll flip over the jig and tape down the back.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
So, here we go again. In this case I decided to start at the border. The blue looks great with the pieced section of the quilt but it needs some interest. Also, I like to have flow between the elements, so what ever I do is going to have to be something that I can integrate into the whole design.
Now this is where it gets tricky. I don't know what the design is! I think it needs to be something "gardeny," (love making up words!). When I look at it I see blue sky and a garden in the middle. Are you with me?
So, my first decision was to do something with leaves. I decided to make the fabrics darker to give the border more interest, so I applied fusible web to some pieces and cut out leaf shapes.
Now the fun part, laying them out on the quilt and seeing what works.
My first idea was to take a traditional approach and make a wreath-like border. I think I'm on the right track as far as the colors go. The darker colors will integrate well with the pieced section, and they'll also bring your eye into the quilt. I like that happening on a border because if your eye is going in, you might not notice those minor imperfections that happen around the edges.
However, I wasn't crazy about it. It wasn't bad but it wasn't doing anything for me. So, I decided to play around with the leaf pieces to see if I could come up with a better idea.