Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oh My Stars!

It's here! My Craftsy class covering my favorite piecing tricks is ready for prime time. Anyone who has been around me for any length of time knows that I have a passion for teaching. Almost every quilt I have designed has started with a list of concepts or tips I want to include in the instructions. I love learning, and I especially love skill building patterns and projects.

Oh My Stars is no different. Even though the blocks range from simple to complex, each one is chock full of hints and techniques that will apply to all of our piecing. I have been piecing quilts since 1975, and I have learned a lot in that time, especially what not to do.

I am thrilled with the details we can see in the close ups. I was concerned, as we were taping, that they might be lost, but Craftsy's commitment to creating quality videos shines through. Really guys, these are not You Tube!

Honestly, I have been addicted to Craftsy classes since the web site went live just a couple of years ago. They have a fantastic range of classes, from quilting to fine art to cooking.

And, just so I can share my addiction, click HERE to receive a 50% discount on the class fee! The discount makes it cheaper than most guild workshop fees, and you'll have me forever! The class never expires, I'm there to answer questions (well, technically, I'm here, but I'll answer questions there), and you can watch it on your tablet! See you there!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plan B

I have made woefully little progress on Of a Summer's Day. I am still struggling with the order of work, embellish first, or quilt.

The larkspurs have been outlined with coral stitch, and I am happy with that result. But as I began to add in embroidery details to the leaves and stems, I had a crisis of confidence. I can accomplish the same look with my quilting lines. Indeed, I will want to stitch in the ditch around all of the applique to enhance the dimensionality. Hand embroidery now will just cover exactly where I want to stitch.

So, it's off to Plan B. I've pulled some of the thread for quilting in details. I see that I forgot to pick out some yellows for the coreopsis. Instead of my usual choice of fat threads for dramatic effect, these are fine threads, for a more subtle look.

It must be that I am pretty invested in this pattern for it to be giving me so much grief. Maybe it's because I have no deadline, or publication plans. Either way, I would like this project to end up being top notch, and that's a lot of pressure. I find myself wanting this to be "the" best instead of "my" best. Silly me, way to suck the joy out of what should be a fun and interesting adventure. I think it's time for me to get over myself and get working.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Embroidering Of A Summer's Day

At last! The cold has been conquered (more like endured), and I feel like I'm back to as close to normal as I'll ever get. I can knock it off my to-do list. Finishing up is so gratifying, isn't it?

There really isn't much left to do on Of a Summer's Day. Everything is stitched to the background. I could just jump to the machine quilting and call it good. I could finish it in an afternoon. But I'm still thinking. I'd like to add some embroidery. I have all the floss picked out and ready.

What a yummy pile of colors. Before settling on floss, I had a whole pile of pearle cotton ready to go. In the end I decided that being able to separate the strands would give me more flexibility.

Just as my students do, I am lamenting how truly awful the stitching looks. There is nothing invisible about this work! But I know from long experience that batiks do look terrible at this stage, because of how tightly woven they are. And I know that by the time the wall hanging is done, the stitches will all but disappear. But still... it's tempting to give it a quick swish in the sink to soften up the edges.

I'm also still working out the order to work. I'd love to embroider in serrated edges on the rose leaves, but then how would I quilt that? Seam like my usual stitch in the ditch would mangle up that edge, unless perhaps I gently echo the embroidery. I'm having a little bit of "but first" syndrome here, to finally decide on the best order of stitching. Help me out here, what do you suggest?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Down for the count

Imagine being held in a death grip, wicked hands wrapped around your throat, squeezing the life out of you. The monster that holds your life in its hands is undead, gruesomely disfigured by the trials of life after death. You claw at the hands, gasping for air, taking that comic book wheezing last breath, just before you snap awake and realize that watching shows about the zombie apocalypse might not be conducive to recuperation, and, oh darn, now I'm going to have to rewind the show to find where I fell asleep.

This is how the past week has been for me. After a wonderfully successful trip up to Interlochen, MI (standing ovation!) on Monday, enjoying the beautiful fall colors all the way there, the rest of this week has been a downward spiral of coughing, sneezing and general misery.

To cap off the joys of a head cold, I fell while packing the car for the trip up north. My feet just slipped out from under me while moving stuff from the studio to the van. No biggie, I thought. First, and most importantly, no one saw me fall, which gave me time to assess the situation before trying to regain my dignity. No real harm done, just a bit of a sore knee, and the need to change my jeans, I couldn't give a lecture with lime green moss staining my pants, now could I? (I'm ashamed to admit this took more thought that it should have. I mean, who's going to be looking at my knees anyway. I planned to distract them with quilts, after all.)

It wasn't until the middle of the night when I realized that everything from the knees up ached in new and marvelous ways. So, while falling didn't leave a mark, apparently I twisted myself up enough to remind myself that I'm not a kid anymore. Already dealing with a dicey neck, it's always interesting to see how many new ways I can find to hurt myself.

So, I've been on a television binge. First there was a zombie apocalypse to catch up on, now I'm ready for the new season of The Walking Dead. And then Homeland, a spy show trying to avert a terrorist apocalypse, also caught up to the new season. And now my binge of choice is 24, a show I'd never watched when it originally aired, which is yet another spy/apocalypse show. As I'm being to feel better, I'm thinking it's time to find a comedy or two to lighten the mood.

The good news is while I've been turning my brain to mush, I've been finishing things. The socks are done, and the pair I knew was hiding in a basket are well on the way to being done as well. The toy rabbit is done, although I'm sorely tempted to give the poor thing bloomers. She's pretty nekkid under that dress. I sewed the buttons on the sweater.

In the process of finishing up I found another sweater with only the sleeves left to knit. Now it's done and blocked. I also found a lovely silk lace shawl I had knitted years ago. It's also blocked and ready to wear.

Probably most importantly, Of a Summer's Day, the flower basket quilt, is now all stitched to the background and hooped up for embroidery. I've pulled a bunch of embroidery floss but from there I'm a little stuck. I know I want to embellish it a bit more, but I'm not sure what or how much. Perhaps it will come to me in my next snooze. It sure would be better than dreaming of zombies.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back in the Day

While I have been doing needlework all of my life, it wasn't until 1975 that I made my first quilt. As a freshman in college, separated from my true love by almost a thousand miles, I did needlework instead of partying. Always the boring and cautious type, I have very few memories to live down. (I might be the only person left of my generation who is truly qualified for public office.)

This was back in the day when a long distance phone call cost nearly a dollar a minute. After years of being constant companions, our universities were at opposite ends of a very large state. It didn't take me long to figure out that being with my guy mattered more than the degree I was after. I followed him to the great white Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I am not at all sure what I'm doing to the quilt here, my best guess is that I am using whatever I had to baste the layers, which looks a lot like yarn to me.

There was no quilt industry in '75, Quilt Market (the annual wholesale show) didn't begin until four years later. I bought my fabrics at the local JC Penneys. Remember back when department stores carried fabric? The only magazine devoted to quilters was Quilters Newsletter, and it may have still been a true newsletter, stapled together at Bonnie Lehman's kitchen table.

My directions for the quilt came from a very short article in Better Homes and Gardens. (Yes, I was reading "shelter" magazines at 18. See "boring" above.) I had a template cut from a Cheerios box, which I traced and traced and traced. My motto at the time was "the bigger the stitch, the sooner I'm done". I understand now that the quilt was basted together.

Quilting and I have come a long way since then. My bed quilts hold together more than a couple of years now. I'd rather work by machine than by hand, at least when it comes to making quilts. Fabric choices have exploded. There are classes and books and videos for learning just about anything a beginning quilter could want to know.

But I'm not sure there has been a moment as sweet as when I first spread that quilt out on the bed in our married housing apartment.  It was wonky for sure, held together with dreams of a future filled with love. The quilt didn't last very long, but the marriage it greeted is still going strong.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I was mostly lost during my shortened summer sabbatical. I have been running up against deadlines for decades and I just didn't know how to handle the freedom. I spent a lot of time in a sort of free floating soup of guilt for not being productive, what ever that means. When Craftsy gave me a deadline, and a short one at that, I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess I love structure, and nothing provides that better than a deadline.

In trying to find a groove I started all sorts of projects, looking for my muse, I guess. I started socks:
One sock syndrome, not usually a problem for me, strikes again. I know there is another pair of colorwork socks, partially done, hiding in a basket somewhere.

I started a softie:
I insist the purchase of the kit was totally industrial espionage. From Posie Gets Cozy, one of my all-time favorite blogs, I thought it might be fun to make something three dimensional. I used to make dolls and teddy bears all the time, but here it sits.

Then there's the sweater for Camp Loopy:

The Olivetti Cardie, knit from fingering weight Heritage Silk yarn from Cascade. This project was the ultimate of startitis. It began life as a totally different pattern, which I ripped out at least three times. Shifted to another pattern, and then ripped that out. By the time I settled on this pattern, some of the yarn was actually worn out and had to be replaced. It was supposed to be finished by August 31st to qualify for Camp Loopy, but I just finished it about a week ago. Finished, that is, except for the buttons.

I'm really pleased with the way the lace blocked out.

There are other projects waiting for completion, the basket of roses, the crazy quilt cat just to name a couple. I am working on the roses, stitching the motifs to the background. I'll show you my progress shortly.

Some great successes came in August and September, which have helped me come to decisions I have been struggling with for some time. All in all, it's great to be back in the saddle. Hmm, which of these projects shall I work on today?