Apr 22, 2014

part 2 - Sue Spargo commission - getting to the final stitch

After spending nearly one year making this quilt top, my quilt buddy Amy G. commissioned me to quilt it for her. Its a handmade Sue Spargo creation featuring exquisite hand appliqué and tons of hand embroidery... really beautifully done. My goal was to 'free motion quilt' it without detracting from her incredible hand work. I'm not done yet.... But getting there.

The border was a bit tricky simply because there was no excess fabric to hold on to.

The batting is Wool Dream. I've never used this brand before but the loft is just incredible... that wool batting plus the 3 to 4 layers of wool and cottons in the appliqué made this the thickest quilt I've ever sewn. 

The thread is a beautiful taupe color (Aurifil 2000) on all of the background sections. The color is a perfect match to the gorgeous wool foundation. 

I attached the binding using the preset "S" curve stitch. In the photo below you can see the new binding clips I just purchased. I've seen these in several stores, but never really thought they'd make much difference... but I have to say they are awesome. They grip really tight, have a flat back so they lay down flat and are very easy to take off as you are sewing.

As I shared in part one of this quilt, this was my first commission. I felt pressured to live up to the excellent handwork on this quilt, but I just decided to have fun with it. Too much pressure is not a good thing!

Here's my progress so far. Just need to go back and fill in some of the birds and a few empty spaces on the foundation. 

I am linking up to Freshly Pieced Wednesday WIP. Check out all the great work there.

Apr 13, 2014

an honor from the Texas Quilt Museum

Dear friends: I normally write about my personal journey as a quiltmaker on this blog. But I have some exciting quilt-related news I'd like to share.

Two well-respected pioneers in the quilt world - Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O'Bryant Puentes - the founders of the International Quilt Festival and co-founders of the Texas Quilt Museum - have named me the Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Scholar on behalf of the Bybee Foundation and the Texas Quilt Museum.

When I got this incredible news, I almost cried. Truly!

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes, me and Karey Bresenhan at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas.
Karey, Nancy, the Museum and Bybee Foundation created this award to recognize quilt research taking place at the Texas Quilt Museum.

I am conducting research for a book and for a final capstone project on the same topic for a Master of Liberal Studies degree at Rice University. My research recently led me to La Grange for a private appointment to view several quilts in the museum's permanent collection. I've also spent time in their library and will continue to do research there.

My academic research is on contemporary Japanese quilts, specifically the sources of influence on the makers and the ways in which influence travels. The book will cover some of this same information, as well as Japan's quilting art history, current classes, competitions and museum exhibitions. It will also feature in-depth profiles of prominent contemporary quilters working in Japan today and will include hundreds of stunning quilt photographs. I have a contract with Schiffer Publishing for my book. It is too soon to say exactly when it will be published, but I am hopeful it will be late this year or first quarter 2015.

I am truly honored and will be forever grateful to everyone at the Texas Quilt Museum for making this happen, and to the Bybee Foundation for their support of the Museum.

And of course, I am also especially grateful to Rice for creating a post-graduate liberal studies program and for encouraging creativity in the capstone topic.

To read more, see the news release and Facebook page from the Texas Quilt Museum.

Also, my colleagues at SAQA have shared this on their blog as well (thanks SAQA!)

Apr 10, 2014

new sewing table & a world of difference

Lucky me. I bought a fancy new sewing table. I searched around and visited some stores... and consulted my fellow Bernina owners in the Yahoo user group and settled on the Horn 5280 with the electric lift.

Image 1

I actually have a very tiny sewing studio and this thing barely fits in there. But it does fit, so that's the good news. Bad news is there very little room to walk around it... so I have to make do. But hey, its meant for sewing, not for me to walk around it, right?

The thing is on wheels and the back table folds down so I can push it up against the wall and still sew. I only need the back table when I am quilting something large. The table in the front on the left side pops off and can be easily stored in the cabinet. The beauty of this cabinet is the combination of the back table and the front left table because they hold the quilt perfectly flat so it is easier to move under the needle for free motion quilting.

Here's the quilt I am currently quilting. Its a commission for my friend Amy G. She made this fabulous top from a Sue Spargo pattern. There is an amazing amount of stunning embroidery and hand work in this thing, not to mention about 4 layers of wool

But back to the table, you can see how the whole quilt fits so well on the table and under the needle. No more fighting with heavy quilts that drop off the sides.  There is also a custom Plexiglas insert for each sewing machine of the major brands. Mine is being shipped and will be here in about 3 weeks.

The electric lift is just awesome. If I remove the knee lift, I can lift the Bernina up to change the bobbin and clean it. The lift also lowers the machine all the way down and comes with a board that pops in the top to become a flat table. So now I have extra table top space when I am not sewing.

Life is beautiful.

More on the Sue Spargo quilting to come in my next posts.

Apr 2, 2014

one inch squares take a long time!

I forgot how long it takes to piece things. Especially an entire background of one inch squares! Some progress has been made... but its slow going. This is part two of my post on the white on white Celtic Cross. The cross quilt will be about four feet long or so.

You can see the thing is starting to take shape. I have cut the cross out of one piece of fabric. This shows the freezer pattern pattern still on the back of the fabric. Below... some squares done, many more to go.

I am going to hand appliqué several long, thin swirling strands on the front of cross to make the Celtic design. Then I'm going to make them trapunto by stuffing them with this soft, thick yarn I found at Walmart. I hope it works. I found some good tutorials online, but since I am doing hand appliqué, I really haven't found one exactly to help explain. I will just make it work.

I hope by this time next week I have finished the square background assembly. There are one inch squares everywhere in my sewing room... not to mention tons of little tiny white scraps everywhere.  I feel kinda stuck right now... ever feel that way? You just gotta finish this one part before you can move on mentally, and physically. Well, that's me right now. I feel the need to assemble the thing before I can even think about next step, or working on anything else.

Linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Mar 25, 2014

Celtic Cross work in progress - the beginning

I've started a whole new project. I'm making a white on white Celtic Cross.

But first, I have to share this lovely sky outside my sewing room studio this morning.

Now back to the cross... This one is going to be quite different from anything else I have done. I do love color and just bought a ton of new colorful abstract prints, but I find myself drawn to minimalism more and more. So, this white on white idea just rose above all the other ideas waiting to be quilted.

I am 'piecing' the entire background with one-inch white squares. It seems like when I first learned quilting and made traditional quilts, I pieced things all the time, but I think it has been YEARS since I pieced anything. So even though it is quite repetitive, and the squares are small, it has been fun so far. I am going for a mosaic white tile look for the background.

The cross will be one piece of fabric and I am going to hand appliqué the Celtic motif on top and hand stuff it (in other words make it trapunto) as I go along.

This is a black/white (low res) print out from the original photo. I had the image enlarged and printed out gray scale at FedEx. Then I cut out the cross so I could work with it and replicate it. This paper cross is temporarily hanging on my design wall. The cross is about 50 inches long - and this is the actual size.

For the circle that goes around the cross, (not pictured here) I am going to leave that whole area open (no backing or batting) and I am going to braid three strands to encircle the cross. The braid will also have open space... so when I hang it on the wall, you will see the wall through this part of the quilt. The idea is to create a halo effect around the circle.

I don't know how long this one will take... quite a while I suspect. I think it has potential to be a really interesting piece when it is done.  We'll see. I will update my progress again in a week or so.

On Wednesdays, I link up with Freshly Pieced Wednesday WIP.

Mar 20, 2014

best quilt shop in Texas... maybe just plain the best

take an old house... take everything out of it... fill it with the best fabrics on the market... add lots of notions and books... put it in the Hill Country of Texas, and you would have Creations. The best quilt store in Texas. Maybe just plain the best. Period.

I've read about this store in some of the "best of" quilt store articles over the years... I even heard one of the owners on a Pat Sloan podcast a while back. I always wondered about why they'd pick this one store over the millions of quilt stores out there. Then my quilt buddy Amy G. and I hopped in the car and 4 hours later we walked in.

Creations (in Kerrville, Texas, which is situated along the Guadalupe River) has everything the modern quilter needs. Traditional, reproduction era, Japanese imports, Stonehenge, batiks, Kaffe Fassett, Amy Butler... all the usual. Basically, they have a lot of choices - something that is just hard to find in one store these days. They have abstracts, prints, muted, black and white, sections of yellow or purple... kid fabrics... you name it. They also have fiber... burlap... every kind of fusible... They even have oodles of really great wool, silk, velvets and other specialty fabrics.

Plus, they have one of my favorite fabric designers right now: Marcia Derse! Most of these fat quarters and the bolts in the two pictures below are her designs. 

The other thing I really appreciate about this store is that almost every fabric in stock is already cut and ready to go in a fat quarter. They stash the fat quarters right next to the bolts, so you don't have to go traipsing around looking for them, and you don't have to carry a bunch of bolts up to the counter to be cut. Perfect for quilters. Variety without too much commitment.

For my quilt buddy and me at least, this store has as wide an offering (almost) as what you would find at the Houston International Quilt Festival... but here you can shop without the crowds and without the overload. And with staff that knows what they're doing and really want to help you.

If you're ever in the neighborhood, you should stop by. There is also a large retreat house and lots of great teachers offer workshops and classes.  They also have a large online business.

I've always felt lucky to live in Texas. But now I know I am really lucky!

One of the historic buildings in Kerrville.

Happy campers quilt buddy Amy G. (right) and me outside Creations in Kerrville, Texas.

Mar 15, 2014

the city quilter... and quilts at the train station, so New York

How many quilters have taken this selfie? This is The City Quilter, in Chelsea, 'smack dab' in the middle of Manhattan. The store carries a great selection of fabrics and next door the owners feature an art quilt gallery.

The City Quilter has become a 'destination' quilt shop... and because so many people visit from all over, the store carries a proprietary line of New York themed fabrics.  They recently teamed up with American Patchwork and Quilting to host a juried competition for quilters. The challenge was to use their New York fabrics in a quilt, and to depict the theme of the 100th anniversary of Grand Central Station in New York.

The winning quilts went up today in the gift shop / Grand Central Annex right in Grand Central. Its great to see quilts being shown in such public spaces... textiles can be such creative expressions... and not something most people expect to see at the train station.

This abstract one is one of my favorites... it's based on the Grand Central ceiling.

And here's a detailed shot. Love the quilting on this one... and the colors are such an interesting and creative way to use the themed fabric.

I also really love this one... so much movement. To me it has a folk art feel.

And this is one of the winning quilts... not grand prize, first or second. I can't remember exactly... but there is a link to APQ site at the bottom on this post for all the real details.

I snapped these pictures of Grand Central today with my camera phone. The lovely clock is the centerpiece of several of these quilts.

Here's the link to All People Quilt