Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!


It's been a pretty busy week around here.  Between baseball, basketball, school functions, and an urge to clean, (which I try to capitalize on when it appears!), I haven't had enough time to do a lot of quilting.

Unfortunately, my cleaning bug has not hit the studio space.  Yikes! 

At first when I heard the screaming I thought it was just because it's Halloween, and then I realized it was my family's reaction to my messy work space.  It's pretty frightening.  If it wasn't upstairs it would make a great "haunted house" attraction for the neighborhood kids.  Thread all over the floor, scraps of fabric everywhere, sharp rotary cutters left out, not to mention the piles of fabric and unfinished projects that jump out at you when you least expect it.

Yes, I guess Halloween is the one day of the year when my studio's decor fits right in, even down to the graying old witch who sits in the corner, typing away when she really should be cleaning up. 

The worst part of all of this is that I work so well and am much more productive when my studio is clean.  Are you the same or do you work better in the midst of chaos?  I think in my case it's usually chaos so when it's clean I'm more relaxed and better able to focus then when it looks like a candidate for "Clean House."

I love it when I can just grab what I need and work away.  The problem is that I "work away" but I don't "put away"!  I used to put everything away when I'd finished a project but that was when I actually finished projects instead of having a bunch in progress at the same time.

You'd think I'd be able to put things away and then go get them when I need them but my menopausal symptoms include an inability to remember where I put something.  The scariest part is that I put together these great organizational systems but then forget how they work!  I should label everything but I have a habit of changing my mind and not changing the labels and that just makes things worse!

What's a crazy lady to do?  I guess I'll just stop typing and at least clean off my cutting table.  It's a start!

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Judge's Choice



Wow, it's been a while since I posted.  The last time I was here I was excited because I remembered a quilt I had just been working on, a real "duh" moment on my part but hey, you take your thrills where you can find them!

As I said I've also been blogging as Gillygaloofus on allpeoplequilt.com.  Today I wrote out some of my tips for entering contests as I've had some luck in that department. 

One of the major peeves we all have is with judges.  It can't be an easy job, and I think sometimes the negativity we often get from them comes from an overly-defensive attitude.  I'm trying to be fair about this so I suppose that judging a quilt show is a bit of a no-win situation.  You won't be popular no matter what you do but it's a lot easier on the entrants if the judges are more like Paula Abdul and less like Simon Cowell.

Case in point, I was once in a contest judged by Kay Bresenhan of Quilts, Inc.  She gave me the most delightful grading sheet I'd ever had, it was all positive and upbeat and included a personal note wishing me the best in the future.  She was definitely a Paula Abdul type.

Then there was another judge whose name I'd rather not mention; not only because it would be un-cool to do so but also because I don't think anyone would know who he was!  Anyway, he totally eviscerated the quilt shown above.  He said the color choices were poor, the sewing badly done, and he just didn't like it at all.  So what happens?  The quilt receives the "Judge's Choice" award!

It was like I was one of those horrible singers trying out for American Idol, Simon verbally destroys me, and I end up winning the contest.  It was one of the strangest moments of my life. 

To this day I still wonder what happened.  Did he mix up my notes with someone else's?  Was he JUI , (Judging under the Influence)?  Or did he have some kind of split personality?  God only knows!

Oh well, it's my favorite quilting judge story and it just goes to show you that sometimes things don't make any sense at all, and you're better off not questioning . . . just grab that ribbon and run!

I'm working away getting the base ready for my butterfly quilt.  It's slow going because it's sooooooooo boring!  But I'm not giving up!  I'll soldier on no matter what, even if I do fall asleep sitting up with an Ottlite shining on my head and a needle stuck in my thumb . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Remember This?


Do any of you remember this quilt? I didn't!

I just started blogging on allpeoplequilt.com and was looking for a picture of a recent quilt I was working on. I found this in my file and posted it and then it dawned on me . . . where is it?

I can't believe that I completely forgot about this piece that I worked on feverishly all summer. It's getting scary out here in menopause-land. I know I've been going in a lot of different directions but this is ridiculous! So, I went looking for it and found it downstairs in the cupboard where I keep my sewing supplies. I've been working out of my sewing box for so long I hadn't looked in there for a while.

Whew! Well at least I know it's still in the house! I'm going to put it out on my chair so I start working on it again. I love the color and style so it will be fun. And, since I forgot about it, it's new too!

Geesh, sometimes I wonder!

Oh well, crisis averted. I think I better keep better tabs on my stuff in future.

By the way, have any of you been on allpeoplequilt.com? The site is pretty good and the bloggers are fun. You might want to check it out. I'm blogging under "Gillygaloofus," and I'm not duplicating this blog so if you're interested you might visit me and all of the other wonderful quilters that hang out there.

Hope to see you there!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Scrappy Halloween Bag

I was supposed to be spending time today putting out our Halloween decorations but instead decided to finish my Halloween scrap bag.

It's similar in design to the one I did a couple of months ago, but it's a lot bigger. It's 16" high, 12" wide and 6" deep. I was trying out some new piecing ideas, and I can't resist anything with orange in it, (it's become my new favorite color!). I also love black and white prints because they add a touch of class to whatever you use them in.

I figured I'd get a lot of use out of this over the years, I just wish I'd made it when my son was still trick or treating as I always ended up with parts of his costume before the night was over. Oh well, I'll have fun lugging it around next week.

This is the other side of the bag. I was inspired by a button I found at JoAnns yesterday, (the "Happy Halloween" one in the picture below. I also remembered some scrapbooking "softies" I'd picked up at Big Lots last year for a dollar. They sure make it more Halloweeny!

I love scrapbooking supplies for my quilting. A lot of them are useless because you can't sew them on, but the softies are great because you can just stick your needle through the foam and sew it on wherever you want to. They hold up well although you have to be careful about getting them dirty as nothing will get the dirt off them once it's on. I don't think they're washable, but I haven't tried yet.
Well, that's it for me today. Lots to do over the weekend so I might not have another post until Monday.
Happy Stitching!
Susan


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Butterflies are Free! Finally!

Whew! The butterflies are finally done!

I wish the photos were better, but these were some of my favorites. The one above shows what I like to do with polka dots. I love to fill them in with other round shapes, (beads, sequins, buttons). By varying the size and type of embellishment you can still keep the "polka dot" look while adding texture and interest, (and sparkle!).

This butterfly is an example of a fussy cut applique. I just took a printed butterfly from a piece of fabric and appliqued it to my base wings. Notice how I use the beads and stitching to draw your eye outside of the appliqued section. This helps to integrate it with the wings.

This butterfly was simpler and was based on my wanting to use these cute oval shaped mother-of-pearl buttons. By using beads down from the top and around the center of the oval shape I created a wing shape within a wing shape.

This butterfly is amongst the simplest but I love how it looks. The homemade buttons are surrounded by a mix of seed and glass beads. I love how the beads pull colors out of the buttons, the wings, and the background.
Next I'm going to quilt the center of the quilt. I'm planning on stitching in the ditch around all of the seam lines. I usually do this when I'm going to do embellishment on top of patchwork. I find that it helps me get the patchwork pieces flat and lined up properly. It also adds dimension. Since the batting I'm using had little loft it'll give it a little depth without making whatever I applique on top lie funky. You'll see!
So, I'm off to cut more fabric pieces. I was inspired by a button I picked up at JoAnns to make myself a Halloween bag so I hope to have that finished to show you tomorrow. It's been fun picking out the oranges and blacks from my stash.
Just what I need, another project to slow me down. Oh well!
Happy Stitching!
Susan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whose Line is it Anyway?

I've spent most of the morning cutting strips for more scrap projects. I usually cut off a length of every new fabric I get and set it aside so when I have the time, (and the inclination!), I can cut strips.

I cut them 2.5 inches wide and at least 8" long. It's not so important to me that they all be the same size as I'm not cutting them for a particular project, I just sort them by color and use them for piecing.

I don't know about you but I really don't like rotary cutting. I know that it's faster than cutting with scissors, but my back and shoulders are always sore afterwards. Part of it is that I'm not using my cutting table, (I actually have one, but use a standard height table because my son does his homework in my studio, and I don't have a high chair for the cutting table). So, I'm stuck leaning over and messing up my back.

I also have to be sharper than usual, as with a lot of sewing projects I find I can tune out during a lot of the process. But, when you're using a sharp tool and a ruler you need to hold straight, well, it's kind of important to be aware. Especially because the major mess up I do is not reading my ruler right.

I have tons of rulers and they are all different. Some have an extra half inch on one side, others a quarter inch, some have the numbers starting in the middle of the ruler, and others are just plain hard to read. I have my favorites but since they're my favorites they're more likely to be buried somewhere under some pile, or they've fallen in between my desk and the wall. So, everytime I start cutting I have to look carefully at the ruler's lines and make sure I'm using the right one!

I've been wanting to buy a cutting machine for so long but have yet to find one that will serve my purposes. The die cutters are too limiting, and the other systems too complicated for my small brain to deal with.

I've used the rolling rotary cutters for years for my graphics business and have tried to cut fabric using one . . . doesn't work! So, when I was in JoAnns a few months ago I was excited to see that Fiskars has come out with a fabric rotary cutter. Woo Hoo! The best part was that I had a 50% off coupon so even if it turned out to be a dud I wouldn't be out too much cash.

The machine itself is very sturdy. It's heavier than my paper cutters and has a smooth surface with an easy to read grid. The grid has heavier marks at common cutting sizes, (2.5" yeah!). It will cut pieces up to 12" long and 13" wide.

The bar with the cutter is heavy and has to be lifted for each cut. It does have a nice grip on the bottom so once you have your fabric placed and lower the bar it isn't budging, which makes for an accurate cut. Once you have it in place you simple roll the cutting blade down, applying pressure.
I will say that it gives you a nice accurate cut. However, there are some downsides. You can cut up to 4 layers of quilting fabric at a time, but the time it takes to lift the bar, line it up, and cut makes it a lot slower than standard rotary cutting. Applying the pressure required to cut would be hard on a lot of people and actually make your back and shoulders hurt more. It also has the limitation that the piece of fabric you want to cut can't be more than 12" long, which requires precutting.
Now all that said, I still find this machine useful. It's handy to have beside me while piecing to cut off those overlong edges. I also like it for fabrics that really need a precise cut. I've had great success cutting stripes with it because it doesn't waver like my hand sometimes can. It's also handy for trimming finished blocks, as long as you have larger than 1/4" to cut. It doesn't do small trimming jobs well so you'll need to have your scissors or rotary cutter nearby to take care of those.

This would be a handy machine to have on hand when you want to do a small project, and don't feel like pulling out the cutting mat, rulers, and rotary cutter. For that reason alone I find it useful.

All in all I don't think it's a bad product, I just think that anyone who's going to be doing a lot of cutting would find it cumbersome.

I'm still working away on the butterflies. I have two more nearly done, (no antennae yet!), and then only two left to go. Hopefully I'll have photos to share tomorrow.

Happy Stitching, and Cutting!

Susan

Monday, October 19, 2009

Butterflies, finally . . . and Quilt Festival review




Yippee! Finally some butterflies to show you. I only have 4 left to do and then it's on to the center of the quilt. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it, I guess we'll all be surprised.

This weekend I went to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara. I'd love to show you the photos I took but it was really dark in there and all of my pictures came out yucky. I guess I'm no camera whizz, but I did think it was really dark in there . . . did anyone else think so? Oh well, it could just be me, wouldn't be the first time . . .

Anyway, the show was huge, 300 merchants and over 800 quilts. I was going to drive over to Santa Clara myself, (it's about 60 miles from here), but my husband volunteered to drive me and when we realized that the Great America amusement park was down the street, we decided to make a family day of it. Fortunately, they were having a $25 ticket special, so the cost wasn't prohibitive.

A quick digression here. Does anyone else out there think that amusement parks are crazy expensive? It's not even a matter of whether or not we can afford it, it's more like are they crazy to charge $3.50 for a bottle of water, or are there enough crazy people out there willing to pay it? I don't consider myself a cheapskate, but sometimes it's a bit hard to swallow. We go to Disneyland every few years and every time my "I'm getting ripped off " meter goes wild. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and the constant "ca-ching" of the cash registers gives me a headache. Frankly, I don't know how big families do it, but as I said, I digress!

OK, getting back to the subject at hand, I went to the Pacific International Quilt Festival this weekend. Because my husband and son were at Great America, I had tons of time to check out everything and I did a pretty thorough job of it.

Granted, this is the first big quilt show I've been to since 1999. I haven't gone before now because it just never worked out. We always seemed to have other plans when the shows were happening. So, I was glad to have the opportunity.

I don't really know what I was expecting, but as usual my cranky meter kicked in. Part of it had to do with being on my feet for about 4 hours, (with a couple of breaks thrown in, those massage pillows are great!).

I remember when I first started going to quilt shows in the early 80s. It was such a thrill to have all of the vendors there, and to get to see things you'd never have the chance to see. The vendors all had fabric lines and products I couldn't get locally, and the quilts were so inspiring!

Now, with the Internet making everything so easily available the merchants weren't as appealing. Most of them were selling kits and bundles, and what's with all the half yards? There were some selling fat quarters, but most had packaged half and full yards for sale. The prices weren't crazy high, but most of the stuff I could get for the same price locally, or online for a lot less.

I also didn't see any new products I found particularly appealing. There were some cutting systems that looked interesting, but I'm not sure how much time they'd save me. I already have more rulers than I can use, and I don't use patterns, so my options were limited.

The one major thing I noticed is the preponderance of long arm quilting machines and supplies. Frankly, the first thing you saw when you walked in the door was the Bernina booth with all kinds of beautiful machines, all well beyond my price range. There were multiple long arm manufacturers represented and their booths were getting a lot of attention. I know that a lot of quilters are using the long arms to make money, but sometimes it felt more like a trade show than a quilt show, which was disappointing.

I spent the first couple of hours looking at all of the quilts on display. As usual, they were at all different skill levels. I'm always more fascinated by the way people use color, and interesting patchwork combinations. The trend towards almost all machine work seems to be in full swing. I saw very few pieces with hand quilting, and that really made me sad.

I've mentioned before that I've been sewing most of my life. The overwhelming evidence that handwork is on the way out really devastated me. I saw so little of it, and most, if not all of the winners were machine work, (at least at this show they had a category for hand quilting). I know that it takes skill to work a sewing machine, but to me it just isn't the same.

So many of the quilts I saw were beautiful, and you know it took so much time and skill to do them but to me the thought of doing something like that made me feel claustrophobic. I know that sounds weird, but it feels really confining to me. And frankly, the thought of having to thread and rethread a machine, not to mention winding all those bobbins . . . yikes! I would have to jump out of the window, and fast!

I stopped by the Janome booth and watched them demonstrate a $1400 machine. It was amazing and there was a part of my brain that was thinking about pulling out my credit card . . . but then, I checked myself. Did I want this machine because it was cool and everyone else was using them or did I want it because it was something I could really use?

I walked away confused, bought an iced coffee and went outside to think about it. When I thought about all of the neat stipple stitching, and the applique possibilities, and how easy it would make so many things for me, I was almost convinced. And then I thought about all of the quilts I'd seen and how few I actually remembered, and it occured to me that I really didn't like the way the machine quilting made the quilts look. There was a sameness to them that disturbed, and in a way intimidated me.

I realized that I was once again feeling like I had to change who I was to "fit in" and was able to laugh at myself. I know who I am and what I do and for now I'm going to stick with it. I may not be "with it" but at least I'll still be me, and be true to myself.

I'm not judging those of you who do a lot of machine quilting. This isn't that old battle of "hand versus machine" it's more a realization that we're all different. I know many machine quilters who look at my work and scratch their heads. They think I'm crazy! They might be right . . .

Hey, isn't that an old Billy Joel song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEZI1PJK65g

Oh well, I'm glad I went. I still want to go to Chicago or Houston, and maybe Long Beach next year. It's still fun to see everything, and mainly to see the quilting world so healthy and vibrant.

I'm signing off to work on some piecing, I guess I was a little inspired after all . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Real Artists"

Still no camera, so no pictures today! I hope we get it going tonight because I'm going to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara tomorrow and I hope to have some photos to share next week.

In the meantime I'd like to vent about something that really gripes my cookies! It's the term "Real Artist." I received an email from one of my readers where she said that some people referred to her as not a "Real Artist."

Now, for one thing, I'm not exactly Miss Manners but I know that that is simply not a very nice thing to say. It's downright rude and nasty, and the only reason why someone would say that to somebody is to hurt that person's feelings.

Just because something isn't my cup of tea, doesn't mean that I have the right to go up to that person and accuse them of not being a real artist. I mean, I've seen some art hanging in museums where I'm convinced the artist must have been a major con artist to convince people to pay money for his/her "art," but I haven't complained about it. I can have an opinion, but that doesn't give me the right to denigrate someone.

The fact is that there's a divide in the quilting world. On one extreme you have the "loving hands at home quilter" and on the other extreme there's the "you need to put on latex gloves to do this art quilter."

Now I like to think that I'm more in the middle, probably closer to the art quilter end, mainly because my work is a little more on the weird side. However, I feel a closer kinship to the "loving hands" quilter than the "latex glove" quilter.

Most quilters I've met are "loving hands" folks with enough technical skill that they could probably sew rings around the "real artists." I respect that so much. The "latex glove" folks also have something to offer us in their persepective on sewing technique. They've gotten us off the 10 stitches per inch nonsense, which is a real blessing to me!

There's plenty of room for everyone to make the kinds of quilts they want to. I don't have a problem with people doing their "thing." The quilting world is a big one and there's plenty of room for all of us.

So, to all of you out there who are pulling on your latex gloves, remember that the "art" of quilting began as a way for "loving hands" to bring some beauty into their lives. And, for those of you pulling out the #12 needles and hand quilting frame, appreciate the fact that the "latex glove" quilters have helped build the quilting industry, which makes it possible for all of us to have a selection of fabrics and supplies undreamt of before they came along.

Oh, and let's all be nice to each other. It's OK to agree to disagree but not to be nasty about it.

To those about to quilt, I salute you!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Inside-Out Day

I'm so glad that I'm old enough not to get embarrassed about little things anymore! Now when embarrassing things happen to me I just laugh and laugh and laugh, and it's a good thing because embarrassing moments are me . . .

This morning I discovered after leaving the grocery store that my T-shirt was on inside-out. Fortunately, it was all one color and not too noticeable, and I was at the store at 7:30 am so the only people who saw me were the clerks, but when I discovered it I had a grand old time laughing my guts out.

The T-shirt part wasn't what was so funny to me, it was that my husband and my son both saw me wearing that inside-out T-shirt for at least 45 minutes, not to mention my son's carpool kids, and no one noticed. I suppose I could be upset because they weren't paying that close attention to me, but I've gotten to the point in my life where I appreciate that I'm not what I look like or what I'm wearing, I'm who I am to the people around me. My son saw "Mom," my husband his wife, and the carpool kids, well, I'm just another Mom like theirs, (who also probably had her shirt on inside-out and they didn't notice!)

I've got a few more butterflies done but now my camera has no batteries, my husband promised to recharge some for me but he forgot, so you'll have to wait to get a look at them.

Instead I'm sharing a photo of a handbag I entered in the Robert Kaufman Quilt Quest in 2007. It won second place and the reason I'm showing it is that it's a good example of how I figure out what judges are looking for.

The instructions said that you had to use Robert Kaufman fabrics only, and I had tons of them so that was easy. However, they were promoting a specific line of fabric, which wasn't my cup of tea, so I didn't use any of it.

Big mistake! The bag that won first place was made of that fabric. So, the next year I decided that I'd make my bag out of the featured fabric and guess what? I won first place!

Now, I'm in a bit of a panic because the traveling show ended in September and I have yet to receive my bag back. I emailed Robert Kaufman Fabrics today, hoping that they can give me some word.

Frankly, you'd think that a national contest like the Quilt Quest would be managed better. Last year I received my second place bag in a ratty box, it looked like it had just been thrown in there and the ribbon was creased and kind of mangled. It was upsetting.

Oh well, I hope I hear word about my bag soon. I don't have any really good pictures of it and I'd love to post some on the blog. It really shows off so many different kinds of embellishment that I think you'd enjoy seeing it.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beading 101: Sorting it Out


I'd like to thank all of you who came by to view my "Blogger's Quilt Festival" post. I had so many wonderful comments! And, I picked up a few new followers . . . thanks for coming along!

Ok, regarding the huge elephant in the room, . . . the "Creative Journey" butterfly quilt. I've had a busy two weeks with my son home, an uptick in my graphic design business, and a few days away. Suffice it to say that I haven't picked it up in a while. I know you all know what it's like, so I guess it adds more "reality" to this blog in that I get sidetracked with real life just like everyone else.

I can't tell you how many times people ask me how I find the time to make my quilts. They don't realize, (and I don't tell them), that it takes me months to finish something! If I could sit down and stitch 8 hours a day I could get a lot more done, but the fact is that I'd get too antsy to do that anyway. So, I guess distractions are a good thing. Actually I believe that they are because sometimes when you step away from something you see something you didn't see when it was right in front of your face. Sometimes I get my best ideas when I take a break. At least I tell myself that!!!

Anyway, since I don't have any butterflies done I thought I'd get started on my promised "Beading 101" online "class."

Let's start at the beginning with the obvious, beads!

I have a lot of opinions about this subject. Having applied beads to my quilts since the 80's I've had just about any experience a person could have, good and bad, so I think I have some good insights to share.

First of all, you need a lot more beads for embellished quilting than you might think. You know those little packets of beads they sell in the cross stitch section of the craft store? They're little packs with 4 different kinds of beads? They're pretty useless except as an add on to a mix. Frankly, most bead sets aren't a lot of use and you end up getting stuck with the containers and feeling like you have to use them, even if they don't fit in with your bead organizing scheme, (another subject for another day).

My suggestion is to go to the beading section of your local craft store and buy the packages of assorted beads. I buy the Darice Big Value packs. You'll want to get one bag of each assortment, so you can start creating your own "mix." Avoid the larger beads for now, you want to focus on the seed bead size.

Above is an example of a bead "mix." It has all different kinds of beads in different shades of "pink." There are metallic beads, glass beads, filled beads, seed beads, even some very small wooden beads.

Now the reason you want a mix of beads is that when you apply beads to your quilted surface you want to be able to control the effect. For instance, if you use only one color and style of bead, that particular area will stand out visually. If that's the effect you want then that's great. However, if you want to bead to add texture, color, and shimmer, then you don't want to use all of the same bead. Instead you use a mix of a similar color or a mix of colors so that the eye doesn't zero in on the beading itself. Another reason not to use the same style and color of bead is that if you are applying them you need to be consistent in your stitch width and bead size, which can be difficult to achieve. Otherwise, it looks like you didn't do a very good job as the same beads used with each other always draw attention to themselves.

Hence, the need for a bead "mix" to draw on.

The assorted bead packets are a great way to get started. Of course, the tedious part is separating the beads into the different colors. It can look daunting, but it's a great way to unwind. I actually find it relaxing. What you'll need is a flat surface with a lip to sort on. The lid of a plastic container works pretty well. It's best to have the lid be white or clear so it'll be easier to see the colors. I picked up some inexpensive plastic boxes at the dollar store that work great. I use the lid for sorting, and put my "to be sorted" beads in ziplock bags I store inside the box.

You will also need some long pins. I prefer the quilting pins with the glass heads, flat "flower" pins also work well. What you'll be doing is picking up the individual beads on the pin. I hold the pin with my thumb and middle finger and use my index finger to pull the beads up onto the pin, and to hold the beads I've already picked up in place.

Before you start sorting you need to have something to store the beads in, especially for sorting purposes. I love the "CraftMates" locking boxes. The individual boxes can be opened or locked so you don't have to worry about knocking over the box and destroying all of your hard work! I suggest the 14 section "large" size.

You want to work with about a tablespoon's worth of beads. Too much will be overwhelming. Also, make sure you have a little snack size ziplock bag so if you get interrupted you can just pour the beads you haven't sorted into it. Then you can pull it out and start where you left off.

I always check the beads on my sorting tray and don't bother sorting the most common beads. It will save me time as I can just leave them all on the tray and pour them into their section all at once.

Sort by color and only keep that section of your box open. Once your pin is full move it over to the box and release your index finger from the pin, the beads should fall into the box. Everytime you finish a color sort, close and lock that box before opening the next one.

One of the advantages of sorting your beads is you can pick out and dispose of the duds as you go. If your pin won't fit through the eye of the bead, toss it. Since you're buying less expensive beads there are going to be some that aren't perfect, that's part of the charm of them, but if they won't fit on the pin and they look funky toss them, it'll save you aggravation later.

If you'd like to splurge on the more expensive beads I'd suggest that you buy the "CraftMates" storage binders with the smaller compartments. I usually fill up one of the smaller compartments with a particular bead, and then add the rest to my "mix master" box.

A few words about the more expensive individual beads. These are beautiful to work with but they can have their limitations. The Japanese seed beads are made for beadweaving so they're consistent in size and shape. Sometimes this works well for embellishment and sometimes not. They also can often be too small to fit on a standard 10 or 12 quilting needle so be careful when purchasing them. I find myself drawn to them but rarely use them. I went overboard once at a Bead show and still find myself passing over those beads in my bead mix. They're just too perfect for me!

Once you get your bead mix started, you can start picking beads up everywhere. The accessories stores in the mall, (Claires, particularly), have great sales where you can pick up beaded necklaces for a couple of dollars. I always check out those sales. Sometimes you can find $5 worth of beads for $1. I usually avoid kits because I think they're not good value for the money. However, if you can get them on sale in the clearance section, go for it!

Once you've finished sorting your beads you will need to start a "mix master" box. Below is mine:

It's a floss box that I pour my sorted beads into when I'm finished. When I need to work on a project I just scoop out the beads I need and put them into one of my smaller containers. This looks like a lot of beads, but you'd be amazed at how one intensely quilted item can wipe it out. I've been working on sorting a few packages of beads so it's higher now than usual.

If you can come up with a way that works better for you, go for it. Just remember if you do the floss box to make sure you wrap it with rubber bands, (I make my own with wide elastic), and be very careful when you are working with it. I can't imagine what a disaster it would be if this box fell . . .Yikes! I live in earthquake country so I'm kind of paranoid about it. If you have kids or animals watch out!

We have a major storm blowing through here today so I'm going to try to tackle the "butterflies" and hopefully will have some done soon.

Happy Stitching, and Beading!

Susan

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Turning Point . . .


When I thought about what quilt I'd like to showcase in The Blogger's Quilt Festival I kept coming back to this one.

In 2002 I decided to enter the Quilting Arts Magazine Calendar Contest. I wouldn't have had the nerve a few years before but I'd had some success recently so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Now in those days Quilting Arts had more handsewn, non-altered fabric articles. Nowadays it seems to be geared towards the "Art" quilters who do all kinds of things to their fabric and quilts that just give me a headache. I've spent years being "non-traditional" but now I'm probably considered more traditional as I actually know how to sew. I'm not discounting the value of the kind of work they showcase, it's just too complicated for me. Anytime I have to put on latex gloves to do something. . . well, I think it's time I'll do something else . . . but then, I digress!

I entered for the 2003 calendar and there was no theme, just an open call for entries. Now, this competition was perfect for me. The quilts are small, 12" square, so my heavily embellished style was feasible, and I thought I could shine.

I've always been fascinated by boxes of chocolates. Of course, I love chocolate, (Dark Chocolate Raspberry Creams by See's especially . . . yum), but what always attracted me were the compartments, each with some different shape inside.That inspired me! I like order with a touch of chaos and a box of chocolates, well, it works for me. So, I decided I'd do a valentine themed box of chocolates.

I started making the chocolate box and when I was nearly done I happened to come upon a piece of fabric in my stash with frogs all over it. It started me thinking about the old Monty Python "Crunchy Frog" sketch, where the chocolate coated frogs were "crunchy" because they still had the bones in them. Then I started thinking about frogs and about their long tongues and how they caught flies, and then it occured to me . . .

How about a frog hiding out in a box of chocolates, using them as a lure to catch flies? That was it and my cupids and valentines went out the window to be replaced by a garden full of all kinds of flies and bugs, and a couple of frogs trying to catch them all.

I called it "You Can Catch More Flies With . . ." and sent it off.

Well, to make a long story short, it won the February spot in the calendar! It was a thrill but the most important thing about winning was what I learned from the experience.

First of all, it's never the life changing experience you think it would be. It feels good to get the recognition for your work and it does wonders for your self confidence. However, whenever you send off anything you still have doubts about whether it's good enough, and more often than not it isn't.

So much about the judging and selection process is beyond your control. All you can do is your best work and then hope for the best.

Secondly, the reactions of friends and family aren't always what you expect them to be. Some will be effusively happy for you, others will ignore it, and still others will make snarky comments. It's a great way to find out who your true friends are, especially within the quilting community. Jealousy and competitiveness can be lurking inside people you'd never suspect so just be forewarned.

Finally, the most important thing I learned about myself was that winning wasn't what mattered. It turned out that it wasn't the reason I quilt. I quilt because I can't not quilt. It's like it's in my DNA, so deeply ingrained in me that I couldn't stop even if I wanted to.

So, this little quilt was a turning point for me. It pointed me even more in the direction of letting go of preconceived ideas and going with the flow, it also taught me that there's more to quilting than ribbons and prizes.

Thanks froggies!

Susan

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Trip to the Other Side

Thanks to all of you who dropped by to check out my studio during the "Studios" Online Open Studio tour. It was wonderful to have so many visitors and to read your comments. I'm afraid that sometimes I take my surroundings for granted, I'm going to appreciate them more moving forward!

One of the comments I received over the weekend was about the backside of quilts and why they're rarely shown.

I think the main reason is that they're usually pretty boring if done well, and scary if not! When you do the kind of embellishment I do, getting the backside of a quilt to look as well as the front can be a complicated process.

I will admit that it depends on what I'm planning to do with a quilt. If it's being sent out to show, or be judged, then I'm very cautious about it being neat with no snags or knots showing. If it's for my own purposes or is going to be lined with another fabric I don't worry about it at all.

Below is the backside of the quilt detail shown above:

As you can see, it's actually pretty neat. There are some uneven stitches but it isn't too bad. It did win a "Judges Choice" award at a national show so I'm assuming it wasn't a huge problem.

However it doesn't tell the whole story. If you look at the quilt you will see layers of applique. I will usually do the applique before I apply the batting. Then when I get it to a certain point, (and knowing what that point is is hard to explain!), I mount it onto the batting. In this case I used the very thin thermolite batting which is very tightly compressed. I then added more details onto that layer, before adding the lining. At that point I did the finish work, mainly the quilting that holds the lining to the surface, as well as giving the quilt more depth. So, what you're seeing is the final layer of stitching, there are at least two layers that you don't see.

I'll go into this process in more detail when I continue on my "Beading 101" tutorial. This week I'm going to focus on getting the butterflies done and then will start going step through step through my embellishment process.

Once my son is back at school next week I'll have more time to blog!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lofty Ambitions

OK, I admit it; I’m a loft hog.

We bought our house for many reasons but one of the main ones was a light filled large loft space on the second floor. It’s supposed to be a shared space, and it is, kind of, but let’s face it, it’s become my studio.

I moved in slowly, at first it was just my desk, computer, and printers. That was fine because I was working from home and it seemed like the most logical place for me to set up. Then the creeping takeover began.

My husband knew going in that I was a quilter, that I had a lot of fabric and craft supplies. I suspect that he thought I might make an end-run at the space and for a while he resisted my little intrusions. He still wanted his comfy chair and his guitars and all of his fishing and woodworking books and magazines in the sunny loft space.

But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Once I started my own graphic design business I really needed the space, so I moved the comfy chair, the guitars, and his stereo system to the smaller space on the other side of the stairs.

Now I have the whole space to myself!

It’s a work in progress and sometimes it’s just a mess. I try to keep it up because it is a space everyone has to look at every day. But when I’m in the midst of big project, or I’m in a piecing frenzy, it looks more like something you’d see on that hoarder show on A&E.

Above is a photo of my space from the top of the stairs so you can see how open it is. It seemed so big before I crammed everything into it and it still is when I take down my worktable.




Right now it’s not too bad. My design business is just starting to pick up after the usual summer doldrums, so I need to keep my desk clear. If I don’t I lose important stuff and since I do event graphics, it wouldn’t do to forget to send a bride’s escort cards! So, the desk has to stay clean.


The best thing about my desk is that it sits in the corner. In the fall I can watch the geese migrating, and watch what happens on the street below. I’m kind of the Mrs. Kravitz of the neighborhood, (remember her from Bewitched?), which would be more exciting if more exciting things happened here . . . although lately it hasn’t been so dull, (see my “Crazy People” post).

One side of my desk is all graphic design, including my massive Xerox phaser printer, which takes up half of one side. The other side has a shelf where I store my little Janome machine. Below it I have an Amy Butler workbasket that I use to store the pedal and accessories. I need to make a dust cover for it.

On the other side of the room from my desk is a set of three cabinets that I use for storing my embellishments, threads, and miscellaneous quilting items. I also use one cabinet for my graphic design supplies. On top is the ruler holder that my husband made me, and my Ikea notions cabinet.
At the foot of the cabinets is an old rolling file cart that I use for pieces that are in progress. To the side of the cabinets is a series of plastic drawers that I use for a lot of my odds and ends, as well as my son’s school papers and supplies. I even have a small sill in front of a little window where I can display a few of my favorite things.



Next to the plastic drawers is my fabric-case, which I’ve sorted and keep up as best I can. I used to be able to remember all of the fabrics I had, but menopause has thrown me a wrench. . .I actually bought a fabric twice a couple of months ago, something I’d never done before!

Above the case is a stack of white plastic baskets. These I use when I have multiple graphic projects going. I throw everything I need for each project in a basket, stick a label on the front and then I can find things easily. It’s also a great idea if you’re working on more than one piecing project at a time.


In the middle of the room is my worktable. This is where I cut, press, and sew. It’s also where I assemble favors, cut menus, and create whatever my clients want. Oh, and of course this is where my son does his homework. It can get a little crowded sometimes


At one end of the table are a couple of plastic baskets where I store fabric that I need to cut and put away, or pieces I’ve already used that need to be put away. I also store my cutters and templates for various projects in the tall plastic baskets and tool holder. It’s also always covered with my cutting mat and my tabletop ironing board.

This cart has twenty drawers that I use to store all of my precut squares and strips. They’re sorted by size, and it makes it easy to find what I want when I want to do a quick piecing project. Above that is more graphic design storage as well as a stack of magazines I really need to go through . . . yikes!



Next to the cart is where I store all of my shipping supplies, which I need to have on hand. They’re a pain in the neck but when someone needs something the next day the last thing I want to spend my time on is going out to get the right sized box.

Behind my desk is a wall of bookcases. The first case has all of my stuff, and next to it is my paper sorter and cabinet, and above that a shelf that belonged to my great grandmother. I use it to store my ribbon, miscellaneous supplies, and my CDs and DVDs, (in the toile patterned cylindrical box).

I feel fortunate to have my space and to be able to find things when I need them. The hardest part is keeping it neat and putting things away in a timely manner. I can be lazy about that sometimes and I always pay for it when I get a last minute order and I have to scramble to find space on my worktable!

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my studio, I’m glad you got to see it when it was fairly neat as that’s when I enjoy it most. It’s great to have a clean slate to work on!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beading 101

I'm sure that you've all noticed that I use a lot of beads in my work. I can't imagine quilting anything without them!

I've been adding beads to quilts since the eighties, and over the years have come up with some tricks, techniques, and theories about their usage.

While I'm working away on my butterflies, (it's slow going this week because my son's home from school . . . he's actually bugging me about lunch right now!), I'm going to start sharing some of my beading secrets with all of you.

Today I'm sharing a couple of details from a quilt that won Judges Choice in the 2001 Embellishment Show, (Embellishment has now been integrated into the annual Quilt Festival in Chicago, and was run by Quilts, Inc.).

The piece is called "Silicon Valley Samba" and was my take on the end of the first flush of the dotcom era. It was also a great way to try all different kinds of beading techniques. I hope you enjoy these details and hopefully I'll have some time tomorrow to start "Beading 101" and even have another butterfly or two finished to share.

Happy Stitching!


Susan