Friday, April 29, 2011

Go Green!

I am a little late for Earth Day but it is the thought that counts!

I recently won a drawing at our local Bernina store, Bobbin Case, and was allowed to pick a CD of embroidery designs by OESD. I chose The Green Life and immediately set to the challenge of using my embroidery module. I must be improving as it only took one trip to the Bobbin Case to print out a design.

I decided to follow through on the pattern we had used in Bernina Club at the last meeting but, of course, adapt to my needs. We seem to go through a lot of small cat food tins as our two cats only will eat one brand of cat food. Between the cans and plastic containers our grocery stores seem to use more and more for packaging, there are always recyclable items moving through our kitchen. I had gotten into the habit over the past year of keeping a small shopping bag on the counter with a plastic bag in it that I could deposit recyclables in. I could then simply remove the inner bag when full and replace with another. I was actually using a smart looking outer bag I had gotten in Rome last year and looked quite nice. However, it was getting a bit worn.

So, for fun last Sunday, I decided to create a more stylish container to go on the kitchen counter. Since I line it with a 'disposble' plastic bag, there was no problem with it being made of fabric. (No matter how hard I try, we still wind bring home plastic bags from some stores it seems. That despite the fact that I always have a folded up cloth bag in my purse.)

Here are the results of my efforts. I am quite pleased!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Want to try something different?

Last  minute news: I am quite delighted as I received notice yesterday that one of my art quilts, Dragonfly, has been accepted into a juried art exhibit at the Lazarus Gallery of United Hebrew of New Rochelle. More to follow on this! 

Now on to my planned post:

The Art of Silliness
I just signed up for an online class and I would like to invite you to join me. Why not? It is called The Art of Silliness and is taught by Carla Sonheim. It is 30 days of ten minute exercises (no, you don't have to get them all done in 30 days, I won't) and begins on May 4.

I figured it is the height of silliness for me to do this - I feel as though I will be traveling more in May than I will be home with my husband - but I did want an incentive to play with improving my drawing skills.

Here is a quick video on the class. I will let you know how it goes!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another Fun Bernina Club Day!

Last Thursday was my day to play and learn. I went down to the Bobbin Case for a day of friendship and sewing. We actually spent most of the morning on 'show and tell' as there was some great sharing on techniques we used, resources available. We didn't get to the day's project until the morning club time was almost done.

The project was a little fabric bag with handles that you could put on a table, etc. and use to put things in. It was a very simple pattern that Linda (the owner) knew we could put together in no time at all. I, of course, was determined to complete mine in my record time so I could also play in the afternoon embroidery class and go home with a finished project. As a result, I decided not to put handles on my bag - I intended to put it on my sewing table for bits of thread etc. I also stitched the bottom corners differently than what we were supposed to do but found the result totally suitable for my purpose and left it as such.

Here is what I created - I loved the colors - two fat quarters I picked up on my Arizona trip in March for just this project.

Of course, I will smile everytime I drop a thread in it as it will serve as a reminder of a fun day with some great people.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Completion

The baby quilt is finished and tucked away, awaiting the imminent birth of its new owner. I was amazed at how this flew together and the joy I had in making it.

I really wanted to quilt it with free motion quilting on my machine rather than stitching in the ditch. I decided to play with enlarging an idea I had used for a challenge project in my guild. I am quite pleased with the way it turned out.

Now, on to other projects!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Checking In on Crystal Quilts

Despite my travels, I am still progressing in the Crystal Quilts class offered by Dena Crain at Quilt University.  I am enjoying the class - it is a good review of some design principles that will hold me in good form. Dena is a great online teacher. I get comments back promptly after I post my progress.

In the first part of the class, we worked on some shapes on folder paper with the idea of eventually using them as an art quilt.  Here were a few of my early drawings.

I finally decided upon another drawing and sketched it out as a full size image. The initial drawing becomes one quarter of the whole.
After this, I made a few refinements and drew in a border as well.

At this point, we trace onto fusible interfacing and use that as a pattern.

I am currently in the process of debating fabrics and starting to piece. I really tried to make decisions on the whole piece at once but have decided that I probably should just begin and follow my intuition. Will keep you posted as I do some more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Inspiring Moments

Irwin, our tour guide
I just spent a few days in Houston Texas visiting friends. While there, my husband and I took a "VIP" tour of the Johnson Space Center. which basically meant we got to spend an afternoon with ten other people learning about the Space Center.  It was an impressive experience. Two things stood out for me that I would like to share. Both are really about the people involved in the space program.

Our tour guide was named Irwin. He stood out among tour guides I have had. First, it was clear from the start that he was a happy person and he not only loved what he was doing, he was passionate about NASA. He also was incredibly well informed and had developed an art at story-telling that made some of what might have been considered "dry" information very interesting. I kept thinking as the tour proceeded that if I had had a tour with him when I was in high school, I might have become a scientist. I was delighted to learn that he is involved in the distance learning programs of NASA. My lesson from Irwin is how wonderful it is for everyone we touch when we discover something we can be passionate about and begin to share that passion.

The other memory from the tour I wanted to share was something we saw in the old mission control room that was used in the Apollo 13 era. If you remember (or saw the movie directed by Ron Howard), Apollo 13 was the expedition to the moon that almost didn't make it back due to technical problems. The ground team in the mission control room worked long and hard to come up with a solution and bring the astronauts home safely.

Upon their return, the astronauts presented the Mission Control staff with a plaque that remains today over a water fountain at the side of the old Mission Control room. The plaque has a small mirror in the center. Whenever anyone took a drink of water, as they stood up, they saw their reflection in the mirror. The plaque remains to this day as a beautiful testimony to the importance of each person working on a team and the power of a team working together.

The plaque reads:

This mirror flown on Aquarius, LM-7, to the moon, April 11-17, 1970. Returned by a grateful Apollo 13 crew to "reflect the image" of the people in Mission Control who got us back!
James Lovell, John Swicert, Fred Haise

Friday, April 15, 2011

Winter Greens - Finished!

Here is what is quickly becoming my favorite art quilt to date. I have shown you parts of it from time to time on this blog. The inspiration were some photos that I took of some vegetables in an open market in Paris last January. Hence the title of my piece - Winter Greens.

After much interpretaton, here is my finished art quilt:

 And some detail:

I used beading, decorative stitching, and roving in the construction. I am particularly pleased with the way the quilting turned out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Watermarking a Photo

A number of people have commented on the watermark that I have been able to add to the photos of my quilts.

The process actually is not that difficult. Lisa Chipetine found a link for me that explained how to create a watermark in Photoshop simply enough that even I was able to follow it. I don't claim in any way to be very proficient at using Photoshop.

The instructions are provided by Show and Tell - Graphics. They include illustrations of the various tool windows in Photoshop that you need to manipulate. That really helps a lot. You are able to make your own custom designed watermark.

There are other tutorials available on the web.
  • I found one for Photoshop Elements that I didn't think was illustrated as well. It was created by Bright Hub. 
  • If you would like a video, Republic of Code offers a 4 minute instructional video. It is basically the same process as Show and Tell-Praphics as it is for Photoshop. However, Republic of Code illustrates two different styles of watermarks. The instructions are how to create the watermark in a photo. I prefered the Show and Tell-Graphics approach which allowed me to create a watermark file that I could open and transfer to any of my photos, rather than creating the watermark from scratch in each photo. That isn't covered in the Republic of Code instructions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Creating a Sleeve for a Quilt

Our local guild, the Genesse Valley Quilt Club,  has an impressive show coming up in June - over 600 quilts will be on display as we celebrate our 75th Anniversary. I hope that some of you will be able to see it in person.

As we prepare our quilts for the show, questions inevitably come up on how to make sleeves for hanging them. It really is a simple process - create a tube and hem it to the upper back of the quilt. It is important to create a pleat of sorts as you hem the sleeve to the quilt to allow the quilt to hang properly.

A picture or diagram is worth a thousand words and, of course, the web is an excellent resource for just that. Here are a couple of sites that can help you along the way.
  • My favorite is the explanation offered on Gloria Hansen's blog. She leads you through the process with some excellent photos. The result is a beautiful sleeve.
  • offers descriptions with diagrams for two options - a simple sleeve to whip stitch on a completed quilt and another alternative for adding a permanent sleeve before a quilt is bound.
  • If you are being a bit lazy and want to try a pre-made sleeve, Quilter's Hangup offers one which they say has a patented gusset feature that guarantees your quilt will hang flat.
  • If you would like to print out a pdf of instructions, the website of Country Crossroads Quilters of Modesto, California offers a one to download.
By the way, if you are just using the sleeve on the quilt for a one-time exhibition, you can actually pin the sleeve to the top of the quilt, pinning every couple of inches along the top and bottom of the sleeve, rather than whip-stitching it to the back of the quilt.

Hope this helps.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Quilt in Progress

From a pile of pink fabrics, a quilt is growing.  It will be a baby gift.

I found a pattern online - a freebie that appealed to me. It is called Vintage Turnovers by Cute Quilt Patterns. One  of the fabrics I selected particularly appealed to me so I am, of course, altering the design of the quilt to accent it.

Here is my basic layout:
The pattern was fairly easy to follow. One of the things that appealed to me was that the space between the blocks was filled with multicolored rows of complementary fabrics.  I thought it was a touch that inhanced the pattern.
My hope is to be able to finish the piecing and be on to quilting within a week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Complete at last!

Finally, after so many months, I have completed Scents of India.

In retrospect, I am glad that the embroidery module quilting did not work. I feel my 'freehand' free-motion quilting really adds to the quilt. I am finding that I really enjoy using beads to enhance a work. My final step was to glue some actual seed pods from the Star Anise into the center of the map of India.

Next step for this quilt will be an appearance in our local guild's bi-annual quilt show.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Playing at Quilt University

Over the years I have taken a number of classes at Quilt University. I like the freedom of not having to be in a set place at a set time. I have learned a great deal through the classes. One of my favorite instructors is Dena Crain. I think I have taken every class she offers and have several binders of notes from her classes. Dena provides great support notes as well as insightful comments as you post your work online.

So, with all of my winter projects completed, I decided to treat myself to a four week course with Dena online. It is called Crystal Quilts. I had taken a variation a number of years ago and enjoyed it. My suspicion was that with the added experience of these past few years, I would take in Dena's instruction at a whole new level.

The class is just starting. As it continues, I will update on my progress. The process is to draw some designs that we will critique and then choose one to create. Depending upon the design, we construct our quilt using piecing, applique, etc. I hope to get past the drawing phase and into the choice of colors during the class. I suspect I won't have the entire piece put together in the four weeks but I would love to get as much input as possible from Dena on the initial phases. She has a wonderful eye for design.

Here is an example of a Crystal Quilt that Dena created in silk. Hope to be sharing my own efforts in a bit.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Jacket is finished!

The jacket is done! Well, okay, maybe the sleeves aren't hemmed yet. Here is how it turned out.

In the end, I found the rayon batik extremely challenging to work with. Even with pinning the fabric intensely, it seemed to move around quite a bit during stitching. I want to try the pattern a second time with cotton. I suspect it will be a lot quicker to stitch up. I was in our local quilt shop, Ivy Thimble, yesterday and discovered they also had a sample of the jacket on display. Theirs was in cotton and the fabric draped quite nicely so I am definitely going to follow up on this. I told Trish Dispenza, the owner, about my experience with the rayon batik and she agreed that the fabric is extremely slippery to work with.

As I made my jacket, I found my independent streak showing up. When I was learning to sew as a young child, the Mom of a close friend worked as a seamstress in a garment factory. She taught me how to take a pattern, assess it and then streamline putting it together, based on logic and intuition, making adjustments as you went. Those lessons stood me well when I designed and stitching my wedding dress more than 35 years ago. Now, that same process clicks in whenever I look at a pattern.

So it was with this jacket. There are a number of things that I would do differently a second time. The directions, as written, were fairly clear - I only misread them once. I just don't care for the way the hem and facing are machine stitched. I suspect that I shall hand sew on cotton, or use a decorative or contrasting thread to turn at least the stitching along the front of the jacket into a decorative item. If I ever try silk or another fabric similar to this rayon, I will try a bit of light interfacing for the front/neck with no stitching and then try handstitching the hem.The cut of the front jacket edge is also a little strange. I instinctively changed mine as I made it and checked out the 'correct' way on the Ivy Thimble version yesterday. I definitely don't care for the way the pattern is drawn.

Having not made an article of clothing in years, all in all I have to say that this was a good experience. (And, that duct tape mannequin I made several years ago finally came in handy!) I basically like the pattern, A Little Somethin' Jacket, and would recommend it. Quilters' Store and Gallery in Sedona, AZ, where I bought the pattern, was offering a class in assembling the jacket. I suspect that might be helpful for many if one happens to be available in your area.