Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What do you LOVE to do?

The last few days I've been on a roll about some of the things about quilting that I hate, most notably Quilt Meanies and unwelcoming local quilt shops.  There are some other things but I have to hold something back for one of those days when I really need to vent.  So.....let's talk about the good stuff!

There's so much that I love about quilting!  Even the more tedious jobs like cutting don't bother me too much, although I really want an Accucut machine, (who doesn't?).  I'm not a big fan of pressing, but I really love the smell of hot fabric, (flashbacks to hanging out with my Mom).  I don't even mind winding bobbins since I got my cute little bobbin winder.

I think the thing I love about quilting the most is that there are so many different layers to it.  You have the designing, the shopping, the pressing, the cutting, the piecing, the pressing, the basting, the pressing, and then of course the quilting, and in my case the embellishing.  All of them fun in their own way, (except maybe the pressing!). 

It's kind of like out here in California.  If you want to go to LA from the north you have to go down I-5, which is one long stretch of farmland, literally hundreds of miles of farmland.  Then once you get out of that it's miles and miles of mind numbing traffic.  Now, if you take a trip from where I live, (for instance), up to Lake Tahoe, the drive is more varied.  We go through the Delta, across the valley, up through the foothills, into the high Sierra, then down to the lake.  Along the way the ride is interrupted by towns and historic sites.  It's a lot more fun than that long slog south, and the scenery's a lot prettier when you get there, (although my son prefers the sites at Disneyland!).

It's the same with making a quilt, it's like a journey with lots of interesting, (and sometimes frustrating), stops along the way.  Sometimes you need to pull into a rest stop and take a breather, other times you drive right through, not even stopping for a potty break.  And always, there's another fun road to turn onto, whether it's taking that first quilting stitch, or starting that new quilt when you've just finished the binding on another one.   It's never a drive to LA, always a trek to Tahoe!

Sometimes I'm certain that what I love best is the embellishment part, but then selecting the fabrics is my favorite, as is piecing, and quilting.  I guess I just love all of it, just not at the same time.  Which is a good thing because I'm always working on multiple projects.  Designing one, piecing another, shopping for another, and embellishing another.  So, it's a good thing I love all of it.  The best thing is I never get bored!

I'd love to hear from you guys what you love most about quilting.  Let's face it, we've got to love it because it isn't easy or inexpensive, and it's very time consuming.  But, oh, when we're in the midst of it, it's like heaven!

Hope you find some stitching heaven soon.  I'm hoping to get some in tonight.  Can't wait!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Don't Harsh Our Quilting Mellow

My last couple of posts have been about those out there who are determined to put us down and "harsh our mellow."

Years ago I had a conversation with a friend while we were visiting Ireland.  She had just finished art school and was more depressed and felt worse about herself after school than before.  Going in she was all excited about what she would learn and how she'd have all of this opportunity to be creative and to be encouraged and supported by her fellow artists.  Huge wake up call!  She wasn't, instead she endured what can only be  called bullying from her fellow students, who took every opportunity to denigrate her, sabotage her, and make her feel like her work was worthless. 

The saddest part about all of this is that when students from the school submitted their illustration portfolios to Disney, (who were looking for animators), she was the only one who was chosen.  She actually was as good or better than the rest of them, and it took that experience to wake her up to the fact that she wasn't the one with the problem, that those who'd bullied her were the ones that were threatened by her talent.  However, what was sad was that even with the success she had, she couldn't enjoy it because she still had deep seated doubts about her abilities.  The bullying had changed the way she felt about herself.

Fortunately, she pulled herself out of it and is now the publisher of an Irish magazine that encourages entrepreneurs.  Her experience of being beaten down didn't destroy her, it made her stronger and pushed her in the direction of helping others find the way to fulfill their dreams.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, about how other's opinions can be toxic to our growth, not only as artists, but also as people.  I wish I'd come to this realization earlier in my life, I would have been spared a lot of pain and suffering, and perhaps would have taken more advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.  Instead, I was held back by my fear that I wasn't good enough and didn't deserve success.

The scariest part is that I've been luckier than most in having more positive experiences than negative ones.  My family has always been tremendously supportive and my husband is terrific and so proud of my accomplishments.  He always says that I don't toot my own horn enough.

I can't imagine how hard it is for those who have not had support for their dreams, who've been struggling along, trying to get past their demons and create the quilts and art that they've imagined.   It doesn't help that when they put themselves out there in a quilt shop, at a quilt show, or at a guild meeting, that they get shot down again. 

As an accomplished quilter I'm often put in the position of commenting on other's work.  Many times the quilts aren't very good by my standards.  However, I've been doing this for many years so it isn't fair to apply my standards to other's work.  I always find something nice to say about every piece I'm shown, and sometimes I see something even in the most poorly made piece; great color choices, interesting block combinations, a knack for design.  Sewing can be taught but art has to reside within the person.  So, if the quilter seems willing I'll try to show them some little tip that might help them fix a problem.  I'll also tell them my story, how I spent years refining my technique and am still working on improving.

Those of us who have honed our skills over the years owe it to the next generation and to those who are traveling this quilting road with us to share our knowledge, and most importantly to encourage everyone who wants to quilt to just do it. 

I don't know if there's anything we can do about the crabby killjoys out there.  I suspect that whatever they're involved in they'd be the same, whether it be quilting or finger painting.  They always have to be the center of attention and the Queen Bee and they'll get that attention and status by fair means or foul.

However, as adults we don't have to play in their sandbox.  So, I've decided to start my own little organization, Q.U.A.C.K., which stands for Quilters United Against Crabby Killjoys.  I intend to counteract their negativity with positive encouragement, and if I think it's necessary I'm committed to calling them out and letting them know that they aren't allowed to behave "that way" while I'm around.  The quilting world is generally a very welcome and comforting place, just think of how great it would be if we could shut up these quiltzillas once and for all.

Don't Thread on Me!

Happy Stitching,

Susan


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Invisible Shopper

Wow, I really touched a nerve with my post yesterday.  I've long felt like I "didn't belong" in many quilting related venues but didn't realize that I wasn't the only one.

I wanted to respond to all of your comments but Nancy's really hit home for me.  For many years I had very little money to spend on fabric.  I would squirrel away small amounts and look forward to Christmas and my birthday when my folks were always great about giving me cash gifts.  Even now, when it isn't as much of a problem, I still like cash for my birthday so I can go out and buy what I want without it bending my budget out of whack.

There were many times I felt like the purple bra and panty gal above, if it wasn't that I took up a little space and maybe shut off some of the glow from their more treasured customers I'd never get waited on.  Or, I'd feel so intimidated by all of the personal chatter that I felt like I was intruding on a private conversation. Of course these were the days before cell phones so I wasn't used to hearing people's private converstions, (the other morning I was forced to overhear all the details of a stranger's visit to the gynecologist...in the checkout line!).  Still, I was often made to feel like I wasn't welcome and when I say "made" to feel that way I mean it.  It seemed like there were some shopkeepers, (or their employees), who didn't care if I shopped in their store or not.

Of course not all quilt stores are like that.  I know a couple in my area that aren't, but whenever I travel I encounter the "unwelcome" vibe and it really bugs me.  Whenever I hear or read of quilt shop owners complaining about us quilters buying online or from the chains it makes me see red.  Don't they realize that they are their own worst enemy?  Their lack of customer service is what drives people away, and once they've lost someone it's hard to get them back again.  I know I don't go into stores where I feel unwelcome, and I'm sure you don't either.

I worked for many years as a Customer Service Manager and was responsible for training many Customer Service Reps.  The main thing I told them is that every customer is valuable, no matter how small the purchase or how annoying they might be.  You never know who they know or how much damage treating that one customer badly can do to your business.

Nowadays with sites like Yelp, and bloggers like me it's even more important to provide great service.  Some stores seem to think that if they wait on you and cut your fabric evenly that they've done their job.  Maybe so, but no one forgets waiting around while you fuss over one customer without even recognizing that you're waiting.  Or how you engage in conversation with one of your "faves" while you're waiting on them. 

Now, I understand how the "special" customers become special.  They attend classes, they're active guild members, and they spend a lot of money in the shop.  I get why the shop owners cater to them.  However, it is possible to cater to them and to your other customers as well.  I know it can happen because I know shops where it does happen; where I'm always recognized, when if there's a conversation going on at the cutting table I'm included, where my small purchase is handled as well as if it was a large one.  I think that's all any of us want. 

My hope is that if there are any quilt shop owners out there reading this post that they take my feelings, and Nancy's, to heart.  It's easy to blame others for falling sales but perhaps if you did a better job on your end and made sure that every customer was made to feel welcome your business would improve.  You might honestly believe that you are, but hang around and observe how your employees interact with the customers, you might be surprised to find out that they're the ones driving your customer's away.  It takes a lot for someone who loves fabric as much as I do to turn my back on a great selection of quilt fabric.  But, I do it all the time.  I have several shops within a short distance from me that I never go into ... because I'm not welcome.

I'd love to read your comments.  You guys inspire me and make me feel less like a quilting freak.

Quilt on!

Happy Stitching,

Susan




Saturday, August 21, 2010

Don't Feed the Quilt Meanies

Last night I decided to take a little cruise around the internet, and came across some quilt forums I hadn't looked at before.   OMG!  The viciousness of some of those people was so unbelievable.  I was shocked, and for someone who calls herself "the Cranky Quilter" that's saying something.

I couldn't believe how nasty this one particular poster was.  I happened to know a little bit about what she was discussing and she had it all wrong and was going off on people who are actually very nice and just trying to do their jobs.  She also had the nerve to have her picture with her post, she looked as mean as I thought she would.

The part that really disturbed me was her groupies, people who went blindly along with whatever she had to say and were commiserating with her over her imagined slights.  These people seemed to follow this poster from forum to forum, it was very disturbing.

I was reminded of an office I once worked in where we had a very toxic employee.  She'd been there forever and had been stirring up trouble forever as well.  However, she was the owner's pet and she'd successfully ran people who threatened her out of their jobs, they either quit or got fired as a result of her shenanigans.  I watched as she'd use the people around her to do her dirty work.  These people were perfectly nice when she wasn't around but they were so terrified of how she'd treat them if they didn't cooperate, that they went along with her.  They helped her victimize other people so they wouldn't become her victims.

I left that job when I had my son and never went back.  I hated being helpless to do anything about this person, and yet I was stubborn enough to avoid being caught in her web.  She tried to bring me down on several occasions but I'd worked with people like her before and was always one step ahead of her.  It saved my job, but it was exhausting and soul murdering.  I didn't want to deal with it anymore.

I've dealt with Quilt Meanies before too, which is one of the reasons I don't belong to a guild or hang out as one of the "special" customers at the local quilt shop.  These people will do what they can to bring other quilters down, particularly if they feel threatened.  If you don't do what they think you should do, if you're an independent thinker, don't care about what they think, or horror of horrors, might actually be more talented than them, watch out!  The talons are about to come out!

I'm old enough now where these people don't affect me like they used to.  I'm confident enough in who I am as an artist that I really don't care what they think.  However, I don't feel like dealing with them either.  I've become a lot more outspoken in my dotage and don't resist my compulsion to bring them down a peg or two if given the opportunity.  So, I avoid being where that opportunity may present itself.  It's easier on my peace of mind.

However, I've encountered many quilters who have been abused by these folks and it just makes my blood boil.  Those of you who are in groups or guilds need to stand up to these Quilt Meanies and stand up for those they abuse.  I know they're frightening but if you all got together you could put them in their place.  It's never OK for someone to denigrate someone else.  Take a good look at yourself.  Are you a meanie groupie?  Do you find it easier to go along to get along, not realizing that you're contributing to creating a monster?  If so, back off and let the meanie stand on her own.  Most of them are the same bullies we knew in school, fight back and they crumble.

I was so tempted to post a scathing rebuke to the online meanie but decided that I didn't want to feed her.  It would only stir up the pot and start something that I really didn't want to get involved in.  Besides, she's online so I can easily avoid her.  Now, if she was in my face it might be another story.  I didn't call this blog "the Cranky Quilter" for nothing!

Now that I've got my rant out I'm going to go through the package of stuff I got from CT Publishing.  I'm part of their "Creative Troupe" and am supposed to be putting together a sample using some medium I've never used before.  It'll be interesting and challenging, and I'm feeling up to it. 

In the meantime, Don't Feed the Quilt Meanies! and.....

Happy Stitching!

Susan



Friday, August 20, 2010

Double Bummer

I'm sure this has happened to you.  You wake up in the morning excited about getting some quilting done, and then, life intervenes.

Today was one of those days for me.  It's been a tough few weeks as I've been suffering with this summer's version of a flu/cold.  I'm not really sure what it is but it's been no fun as it's been lingering for weeks.  Of course, it hasn't been as bad as some bugs I've had.  I never had a high fever or really awful symptoms, just a continuous "not feeling good" vibe with a new surprise each week.  It started with a sore throat, low grade fever, and cold symptoms and since it didn't seem to be progressing like most colds do, I assumed it was a flu bug.  But then it lingered and kept adding new and annoying developments.  Not enough to put you in bed, just enough to make you feel like you're not sick enough to go to bed.  I think I may have caught the initial bug and then in my vulnerable state, my son went back to school and started sharing.  So, I've been catching everything out there.  My husband now seems to have his own lovely version of what I'm not so affectionately calling "the creeping crud."  He seems to be getting over it quicker, but he always does because as all of you women out there know, he can rest.  Enough said!

The only good thing about this "crud" is that I've been able to use those snatches of "down time" to finish one of my WIPs and am halfway through another.  There's always a silver lining!

This week is the first week that I've had enough energy to tackle cleaning out my studio and starting some new projects.  I've got a few ideas I want to tackle, plus I'm designing the quilt I'm going to be entering in Joann's "Quilt your Colors" contest, (more about that later).  So, I planned out my day last night, ran my few errands after I dropped my son off at school and set down at my desk to check my emails.  At that moment the phone rang, it was my son calling to say that he didn't feel well and wanting me to pick him up. 

So, now you know why I didn't get any quilting done today after all.  He's caught the "crud" and hopefully will be able to play in his first football game tomorrow night.  Knowing him he'll be over it in 24 hours, (kids are amazing), but that can't give me back my "quilting day."  Double bummer as it's no fun for him being sick either.

Well, as Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day!" and the game isn't until 8 pm so hopefully he'll be cured of the "crud" and I'll have a happy day in the studio.

Oh, and another thing.  I just found out that I will be able to share my "big news" on September 1st, (I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago).  Until then you can wonder what it is, (speculate away!).  Odd's are it won't be as exciting as I make it out to be, but hey, good news is always welcome!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your weekend, it should be nice and cool out here in California.  This time of year it's usually in the 100s, but tomorrow the high's supposed to be 79 degrees.  It'll feel like a fall night for the football game.  I need to remember to bring a jacket, I nearly froze to death at practice last week!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Using Embroidery in your Quilts

Isn't this the cutest cat ever?  I found him at french-knots.com, a great embroidery website. (http://www.french-knots.com/).

As you've probably noticed my quilts feature a lot of embroidery.  It's one of those skills that I believe are necessary if you want to move forward and expand your quilting repertoire. 

Many of us remember learning embroidery when we were children.  I started off with punched cards and yarn and moved on to dishtowels where I practiced my backstitch and outline stitch.  I was fortunate to come of age during the 70s when embroidery and ethnic needlework was all the rage.  So, I learned how to do just about everything from molas to openwork embroidery.  I have to say that my cut off shorts were the coolest ever, (I wish I knew what happened to them!).

Anyway, if you never learned how to embroider you can check out http://www.french-knots.com/ for more info and a stitch library.  I suggest getting a hoop and practicing your stitches until you feel comfortable.  One of the things that learning embroidery does is help you learn how to keep your stitches even and how to place them properly.  You also learn how to use a needle and thread in ways that quilting stitches can only dream of.  It's a great training for good quilt stitching and opens up a lot of opportunities for embellishment.

I love to use embroidery to accent fabrics, it adds texture, integrates colors, and allows you to disguise boo-boos.  I love it as a way to cover up applique mistakes, it can help smooth corners and correct straight edges.  It's an amazing skill and one you should take the time to master.

Besides, just think of all of those beautiful floss colors you can buy, and at about .35 a skein it's a lot less expensive to acquire a great thread library!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Color Trends

Thanks Sabi for your comment on my post yesterday.  I'd love to share with everyone what I know about trends and how to track them.

I have a degree in Clothing and Textiles and one of the things we studied is how color trends are set.  Now, you might ask, why do we have to have color trends?  Well, if the same colors were always in style we could wear the same things for years and wouldn't buy new clothes, or paint our homes, or buy new furniture. It's all about making the consumer want to spend more money!

Above are the colors trending for Spring/Summer 2011.  This information is available on the internet, I like to go to http://www.fashiontrendsetter.com/content/color_trends.html.  This is a fashion trend site and shows what colors will be popular next spring.  Usually, these colors are more fashion forward than most of us are.  The quilting industry used to be a little more behind but now is much more up-to-date.  Part of that has to do with the abundance of designers and the smaller runs quilt fabric manufacturers are producing nowadays.  Because the runs are smaller they can take more risks, hence more fashion forward colors.

When I look at this chart what I see is a duller color spectrum.  There are brights, but they're less "yellow" than they were before.  See the green swatch on the third row up from the bottom?  That swatch would have been more "lime" last year than the spring green I'm seeing here.  Also, note the greens on the second row from the top, they're more of a celery tone, a lot less cheery than the ones we've been seeing lately.  What I take from this is that we're going to be seeing slightly duller colors so if I want limes and bright oranges and yellows I'm going to buy some now before they disappear.

There is always an overlap on these trends.  Designers and manufacturers don't want to freak everyone out by suddenly changing everything, instead they do it in small incremental steps so that most people don't even notice it.  All of a sudden they're seeing spring green and it looks "new" to them. 

Now, for most of us these color trends don't mean a whole lot in our day-to-day lives.  I really don't care that much if my t-shirt is the trendiest, hippest, happening, now color and I doubt most of you care that much either.  The great thing about knowing these things if you're a quilter and you're stash building is what colors you need to snatch up before they disappear, and also what colors will be too trendy to be usable long term.  For instance, teals are colors that come and go and tend to look dowdy quickly, I generally avoid them.  The same goes with browns and beiges, be careful and only buy these fabrics with "true" versions of these colors, preferably ones found in nature.  If you do you'll be much happier and will find they have a longer stash life.

As far as prints go, right now I said that we're in a "graphic" phase with a lot of "flat" patterns.  We've been through these before, the 1960s was the last best example of these.  They can be fun and add some zip to your stash, but they also have the propensity to look dated.  Now, patterns like polka dots are always a winner, I'm sure to snap up all colorways of them because they're always in style.  Same goes with a well designed calico or 1930s print.  Try to stay with true clean colors and you usually won't go wrong.

If you want to know when a color or pattern trend is about to start fading away, I have a one word answer for you , Target!  If you see a color or fabric style start to show up in Target that means that it's filtered down from the high end and is being pushed to the masses.  This doesn't mean it's going to be outdated right away, Target is usually the first mass retailer to market these trends.  However, once you see it there, you can bet that it will be on it's way out within the year.  Point in fact, lime green!  There's tons of lime green stuff at Target, (which is great because my son just did his room in dark blue and lime green), but as you can see from the chart above, lime green is on it's way out.  Us peasants will be enjoying it's fresh appeal for a while longer, but soon enough spring green will be before our eyes and suddenly it will be the next best thing.

I hope this explains how fabric trends come and go.  I've been observing it for years and haven't really thought about it as it's one of those things I just pick up on.  However, if I see anything happening I'll let you in on it.  I'm sure some of you have some observations to share as well.

Happy Stitching!

Susan


Monday, August 16, 2010

Which Fabric Would You Buy?

One of the first things people ask me when they see my stash is "How do you know which fabric to buy?"  That's a great question and it's only been recently that I realized that there's a method to my fabric buying madness.

Fabric is not a cheap item.  It's easy to make expensive mistakes so it's important that you develop some kind of strategy.  In my case I know what kind of fabrics I'm more prone to use, and I also know enough about how the industry works that I do what I can to fill my needs when the opportunities present themselves.

First of all, buy quality!  I can't emphasize that enough.  Crappy fabric is crappy fabric and it doesn't cost that much more to buy the good stuff.  A load of nasty stuff might make a lot of quilts but they won't last and you won't be happy with them.  This is one reason why having a strategy is important, you can afford to buy good stuff when you don't waste money on bad stuff.

Secondly, be honest with yourself.  The fabric might be gorgeous but if you won't ever use it there's no reason to buy it.  Sometimes I see a fabric I love that I doubt I'll ever use but I still have to have.  That's when you buy a fat quarter or quarter yard.  You've satisfied your urge without breaking the bank, and you may very well find a use for it somewhere.  Otherwise, stick to your style and only buy what works for you.

As far as quantity goes, that's an individual question.  I usually buy half yards because I work fairly small and a half yard will provide me enough to back most of my quilts along with leftovers for piecing and applique.  If you scrap quilt, fat quarters or quarter yards should be fine.  If you follow patterns then you might want to make a list of the quantities you need of different fabrics for different quilts and keep that in your wallet for reference.  I don't make full sized quilts, but I wouldn't buy backings unless I already had a use for them, (or I was buying for a particular quilt).  That's a lot of fabric that you may never find a use for.  Don't invest your limited resources unless you're positive you're going to use it.

Color is one of my main criteria when purchasing fabrics.  I think we've all noticed how different colors come and go in the quilt shops.  If you see a distinctive green, for instance, you might want to pick up a piece of it if you do lots of floral applique, same goes with other unusual colors.  You don't have to buy a lot but keep an eye out, those oranges that are everywhere right now may be impossible to find in a year or two.  So, if you want to accumulate a comprehensive stash you need to keep that in mind.

The same goes with prints.  Right now we're in a very "graphic" stage where a lot of the fabrics have what I call a "flat" appearance.  What that means is the the images don't have a lot of dimension, so although the print might be a floral, it doesn't look like flowers in nature do.  These kinds of fabrics are more limiting and harder to work with so unless you have a particular project in mind I'd avoid them.  They're trendy which means they won't hold up well in a stash you want to use over the years.  I buy them when I like the color combos or if they look like something I can applique and embellish the heck out of .  Other than that I'd stay away.

Above is a new fabric line from Michael Miller called "Playdate" by Patty Young.  I thought I'd use this line as an example of my thought processes.  First of all here are the fabrics I wouldn't buy:
Why not?  Well, stripes are something I tend to avoid.  These are problematical because of the colors.  They're distinctive and will probably coordinate well only with the other prints in this line.  The lollipop prints are adorable but too much of a flat "graphic" look.  They'd be darling in the right pattern but not something I'd ever use.  So, it's a big "no" for these five.
OK, why are these maybe's?  Well the stripe is kind of odd but once you put the white in it it becomes more usable.  I could see myself cutting it in pieces and using the different colors around squares as borders.  The border panel is also a possible.  Depending on the size of the figures they could be usable as appliques, or even cut up into squares for piecing. I love dots and these are kind of cute.  I'd be more prone to buy the brown one because I love brown backgrounds and because it's a color combo that will probably only be available for a little while.  What concerns me about both dots is what size they are.  I'm more likely to buy smaller dots than bigger ones, they have a lot more uses.  I like the lanterns, but the green background doesn't do as much for me.  I'd have to see it to decide for sure.
I'm fairly certain that I'd buy a piece of each of these.  I love the goldfish!  Such great colors and since they have a patterned background the "graphic' look of them is less flat.  Also, anything aqua or purple is generally a plus.  Both colors change a lot in hue over the years, and purple prints that aren't too "cutesy" are hard to find.  That's why I'd buy the purple lantern print over the green one in my Maybe list.  It's all about the purple.  The florals have great color combinations and although they have the "flat" "graphic" look I warned you about, they could play well pieced, you'd be able to get some interesting patchwork pieces out of them.

Now, it's not definite that I would buy all or any of these.  I'd like to see them in person or at least a swatch online with a ruler on it so I know what size the images are.  If they're too big, or too small I might pass.  But I've narrowed it down pretty well, and probably saved myself some cash by only buying what I will use and fabrics that will hold up over time.  Oh, and Michael Miller fabrics are very high quality so I'm sure I'd be happy with them.

Let me know your thoughts on how you buy fabric, I'd love to hear your ideas!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, August 13, 2010

Where Does Your Mind Wander?

Last night while I was sitting in my chair stitching away it occurred to me that the time I spend hand quilting is valuable to me in many other ways.  Of course, the first thing is that I'm quilting, which I enjoy.  But there are other advantages as well.  It's impossible for me to snack while I'm sewing.  Anything salty or sticky is impossible, so it helps with my diet, (I'm doing OK, down another size).  I also can't really watch TV, which is fine because even though we have 500 channels there's never "anything" on. 

The biggest bonus is that my stitching time is also my thinking time.  It's very easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of everyday life and not find enough time to get in touch with yourself.  I hate it when I don't get any "brain time" because that's when I solve a lot of problems, come up with new ideas, and just find some quiet time to meditate.  Since I'm a Christian I also find it a convenient time to pray and open up my heart to God's blessings, which are too easy to lose track of.  Having that quiet time everyday is a real boon to me, so I always try to find at least a little time to sit and stitch.

I've read somewhere that needlework is great for stress because it lowers your heart rate.  For me it's so much more, it's often like I go into a kind of trance, letting the work and the beauty flow through me.  It's so calming that although I have my share of worries, I find that while I'm stitching I'm worry free.  I find myself looking forward to the evenings I spend in my chair, with my dog cuddled next to me in his little bed and my husband and son enjoying their sports or other programs.  I'm part of it, and yet I can escape in my head to a place where worries fade away and creativity reigns.  It's almost like a waking dream and I love it.

What I find most interesting is that once I finish a piece my attachment to it seems to go away.  It used to be that I had all kinds of memories linked to my quilts.  Each work brought out memories to me of what I was going through at the time. In the last few years I've noticed that that has gone away.  Of course I'm in every quilt I make, they're my unique creation, but I've mastered the knack of putting myself into the piece without losing myself in it.  When I'm stitching I'm in that moment and what came before and after means nothing to me.  So, once a piece is finished all I think about is getting on with something new, mainly so I can have that quiet time again where my mind drifts but my hands work.

So, where does your mind wander and do you find it fulfilling?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime,

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quilt Details

Larger photos of this quilt as well as details of the borders and blocks is now available at my website at http://gillygaloofus.com/school.html.  I'm glad I took the time to do it because I discovered a tiny error that was on about 10 pages, (yikes!), that I was able to fix. Most people probably wouldn't have noticed it but it was enough of an issue for me that I just spent 4 hours correcting it.  I think website design and maintenance are almost as time consuming as quilting!  And not half as much fun, my brain is now officially fried!
Here's another block detail, the flower in the center is a "softie" button which I embellished with beads. I then used a strand of beads in a rainbow formation to go around the inner circle border. Talk about a pain! This is a case where expensive beads work best because they're more consistent in size. I had to go back in and adjust this after I'd stitched it down, that process is a post in itself! I also did a simple quilting stitch around the black motifs on the outer border, and put a few white buttons on the blue inner border fabric.
This block has a really fun central fabric so I didn't have to do too much in the center of the block.  I outlined the black writing and sewing machine with a single strand of black thread.  The polka dots in the inner border are outlined in green thread.  The major work is on the outer border where I outlined the pattern in different colors and added a few beads and buttons.
This block has an art theme.  The palette is a "softie" with two pencil buttons stitched next to it.  The inner border has red flowers outlined in red beads and the outer border has a combo of little flower buttons and white seed beads in each polka dot.

I hope you've enjoy the details of this quilt.  If you have any questions about how I did anything or what exactly I did, send me an email at susan@gillygaloofus.com, or comment below and I'll respond. 

I need to get away from this computer because my head is about to explode!  So, I'll be back tomorrow.  In the meantime....

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Finally Finished!

The quilt I've been working on for the last few weeks is finally finished! 

It's always hard for me when I'm coming to the end of a project.  I've really enjoyed working on this one and started to feel sad when I realized I was nearly done.  It's interesting how attached you can become to a quilt, I always fall in love with what I'm working on, especially when that quilting mojo is really happening.  This was one of those quilts, so it's hard to put it in the finished pile.

Above is one of my favorite blocks.  The border is a traditional country style print, which I jazzed up with seed beads.  The leaves are all made up of shimmery green glass beads, with a green seed bead at the end.  I love the sparkle!  I also used buttons to decorate the flowers and loved how that retained the country look while still working with the more retro look of the piece.  The center figure is one of my handmade buttons which I created with vintage clipart, photoshopping the "STITCH" in the newspaper.  I love how the polka dots help to "pop" the center image.

This block was a little more difficult because of the pattern of the border.  Instead of trying to "fix" the differences in the motifs I decided to highlight them by using orange and green buttons, unifying them by stitching on orange crystal beads between each motif.  The center is one of my favorite scrapbooking "softies" used as a frame for one of my handmade buttons.  I love the dimension, and the stack of flowers in the corner of the frame. 
                          
Here's a detail, note how the softie is stitched under the black lip of the frame.  If you use matching thread the stitches aren't noticeable at all.  I love the dimension in this block.

There are a few more blocks to share and I am working on a large photo of the finished quilt that I'm going to have to link to on my other website.  I can't give you the full look with the tiny pictures the blogging site allows me to post.  As soon as I get that up I'll let you know and provide the link. 

In the meantime, I'm going to grab another one of my works in progress and see if I can't continue on my roll.  It would be great to get at least another one finished while I'm in the mood.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two More Blocks

More embellished blocks to share!

I'm so close to finishing this quilt.  It's exciting because I start so many and it seems to take forever to finish them.  This one was actually started less than a year ago.  A new record for a heavily embellished quilt!

The first block features a printed fabric lady.  I bought this fabric many years ago and it has a selection of figures and words written in script.  I don't know how I'll use the words but this lady was the perfect fit for this quilt.

I used a fine black thread and backstitched around the main features.  I wanted it to have some dimension.  The butterfly is one of my homemade buttons which I stitched to one side.  I think it makes her look a little dreamy.  The outer polka dots have colored letter beads and buttons in matching colors.  I haven't done anything with the interior border yet and I may just leave it as is.  The one thing I was thinking of doing was using some green embroidery to tie it in better with the outer border. 
This photo shows the detail of the button wreath I created for another block.  I actually used the layout case I featured a few days ago to lay this out, then I stitched it when I had leftover thread on my needle.  It's a great idea to have a little project like this little wreath while working on an embellished piece for that very reason.  I can use up little pieces of thread and avoid having to thread another needle, (which is great because I don't see as well as I used to!). 

The interior fabric was a simple black and white print and as appliques often do, was puffed out a little too much after I stitched the wreath on.  So, I threaded my needle with two strands of white embroidery floss and made a simple stitch in each white rectangle.  It adds texture, shine, and helps it lie flat. 

You might wonder if all of this is done right the first time.  Not!!!  Just this weekend I picked out stitches in one block three times.  I tried different ways of accenting the fabric and none of them were working.  I haven't taken photos of that section yet but when I do I'll explain to you my thought processes and why I decided to do it the way I did. 

After a while you get to know when it's "right."  My tip is to never force it.  If you're doing something and you feel uncomfortable about it, put it down and come back to it later.  I usually end up picking it out and doing something different, the break helps me reconnect with it and "see" it differently. 

This is actually good advice for any artist.  I always put my works in progress out where I can see them.  I may not look at them every day, but it's good for me to get a fresh perspective.  It's amazing what you'll sometimes catch out of the corner of your eye.  One of my art instructors told us to always prop up a drawing or painting, walk away from it for a while, (preferably overnight), and approach it fresh in the morning.  It really helps.

This quilt is actually hanging over the back of my chair in the family room.  My dog's hair gets on it, (I go crazy with the lint roller when I'm finished), but he never sits on it because all the lumpy beads and buttons make it uncomfortable.  I don't think cats would like it either but they're unpredictable so who knows.  Anyway, I leave it there so I can look at it as I go about my daily chores.  It's always fun to see it when I come around the corner.  It helps me keep track of whether or not I'm heading in the right direction.

I'll have more blocks to share tomorrow, in the meantime....

Happy Stitching!

Susan


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beaded Block Embellishment

Still working away on my "School Quilt."  I'm finished with all of the center blocks and am finishing up the borders so hopefully I'll have a full shot of the entire quilt soon.

In the meantime I'm focusing on each block and describing my embellishment techniques and why I used the ones I did. 

This block was one of the more difficult ones.  I didn't want to use a simple center motif because the block next to it has a simple button in the center.  So, I needed to find some way to tie the center into the interior border.  I got out a few of my handmade butterfly buttons and decided to use the monarch because I wanted to bring in some orange, (to help blend with fabrics around the block), and an aqua butterfly because I wanted to tie into the aqua in the border.

In this case I tied the blue butterfly to the orange one by a beaded and buttoned running stitch, starting off with blue beads and then interspersing them with white until I got to orange.  The aqua border is where I went really wild, beading every bit of the background with matching seed beads.  The white starred outer border is accented by white star buttons.

                        

Here's the block in it's place on the quilt.  Notice the green buttons in the polka dotted fabric, and the touches of aqua embroidery in the butterfly wings in the border.  I love to do this to tie fabrics together, it's like having a whole other colorway!

Tomorrow, another block, and more techniques!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August's Inspiration: Alexander Henry & The Brady Bunch

I can't tell you how loud I laughed when I saw Alexander Henry's new line, "Brady Bunch."  There's a flowery print for each of the girls and the boys have stripes and plaids to match.  Very retro, very seventies, very Brady!

Like many of you out there I remember the Brady Bunch when they were actually first run programs.  Of course, we never saw them, (or the Partridge Family), because there were other programs on that my father preferred to watch.  So, instead of the Bradys we watched Sanford and Son, (my dad had really great taste in sitcoms!).

I remember at the time that it was considered kind of uncool to watch the Brady Bunch.  It was looked upon as babyish and not something a respectable sixth grader or higher would waste their time on.  It wasn't until later when it was in reruns that I actually saw it.  It used to be on right before dinner time so we'd catch it now and then.  By that time I was able to look back on it and laugh at how things used to be. 

About this time I had the opportunity to meet Barry Williams, (the actor who played Greg).  A friend of mine's parents had a department store and he was coming to do a personal appearance.  I suppose I could have gone but I was totally not interested.  From what I heard he was a nice guy with a severe case of acne, (kind of like the rest of us!).

Anyway, I found this fabric line hysterically in sync with that era.  I don't know what I'd do with it quiltwise, but it would be so cool for a girl's room.  I can just picture it now, all hot pink and lime, with dashes of Brady...it's probably a good thing I have a son!

Of course it isn't just because of the Brady Bunch line that I find Alexander Henry's fabrics inspirational.  They use the best quality cottons and their prints are always interesting in a different, fun kind of way.  They aren't always as user friendly as other fabrics, but so much fun that I can't resist them.  Besides, I've been known to come across them at Joann's and get to use my 40% off coupon on them.  Love that!

I'm still working away on my "School Quilt" and am finishing up the last square before working on the final borders.  I'll post more about it tomorrow.  In the meantime....

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia...."

Happy Stitching,

Susan