Dec 31, 2013

2014... bring it on! I'm ready.

My quilt buddy recently labeled 2013 as "my year." I love that positive vibe... but I actually think that 2014 will truly be "The Year of Me Doing Exactly What I am Supposed to Be Doing."  More on that below.

But first, one last pic of the year - I finished quilting the dog part of my dog art quilt. Working on the background.

And this shows the back of the quilt. Loving it.

I have been blogging about this quilt for the past two months - so you can see more in my archives. More to come on the dog quilt journey.  Although you'll have to be patient... because 2014 is THE most exciting year ever!

You see, 2013 was a year of ups and downs - first, a big "up"... we moved back into the "city." Love that! But shortly thereafter ... my big fat corporate job was eliminated and I found myself dealing with the shock and awe (not to mention some anger) over it all. But then I got over it... and I eventually realized that that job was sucking all of the life out of me... and at the end of the day there wasn't much left for my family or my quilts... or me.

When all this unpleasantness started, my quilt buddy said to me... "in a few months you're going to be sending that company a thank you note." Seriously? I thought she was crazy. Turns out she was so right.

If you had a choice to re-invent yourself and focus on what you're passionate about and do what you love, do you know what that would be? For me, the answers came super quick... something like 2-by-4's "hittin' me upside the head" as we say here in Texas. {A 2-by-4, by the way for my international friends, is a thick board that is 2 inches by 4 inches.} Start a consulting business. Start a quilt blog. Be an art quilter. Sew everyday. Create original work. Be happy.

But the biggest... and most exciting of all of those ideas literally hit me all at once in a fully formed notion. Are you ready for it? Picture Kevin Costner hearing the voice in "Field of Dreams"... only instead of corn, it's me standing in a quilt studio : GO TO JAPAN AND WRITE A BOOK ABOUT QUILTS!

So, I'm going! In January! Just like that! I am making it happen.

Writing a book has been a dream of mine since I was 10. The fascination with Japan and Japanese art quilting has been growing for the past 5 or 6 years.  I have a contract with a publisher and this is really happening. I'm not able to share more details about the content of the book yet until things are more definitive and the date for publication has been set, etc.  But eventually, I promise full disclosure. I also hope to share parts of this journey with you... and eventually, I will be the author of a book that I hope will be appealing to quilters and art lovers everywhere.

Clearly, 2014 is going to be an awesome year. I'm free from the obligations of going to some office everyday. I work from home and quilt when I want.  I've built a successful business to support my passions... and I'm living the dream.

What's so interesting is after all those years in a corporate environment, where everything is done for and with a team, not to mention with the full support of administrative assistants and staff members, now I'm completely on my own. The professional things that I do will either fail or succeed wholly based on my own effort. And I can't wait.

Bring it on! I am so ready.

Dec 26, 2013

a thing of beauty for my sewing studio

This Christmas, my quilt buddy Amy G. delivered an unbelievably awesome gift. It's a gift that showcases her endless talent and creativity... and it also reminds me of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends!
Check out this beautiful tin box created especially to hold lace and other precious sewing goods. The top is covered with a wonderful newsprint fabric and decorated with a bird's nest and handmade vines with holly.
Handmade card spools covered with specialty papers ... even labeled in several languages... so cool.
And here's a photo of the box with my vintage laces and a variety of ribbons and tulle wrapped on some of the spools.
Best of all, inside the lid, my quilt buddy added some special touches: Third Floor Quilts spelled out in vintage Scrabble letters! I love it. Lucky me.  This is one truly beautiful Christmas gift! Thanks Amy G!

Jan 2014 Update: Here is the link to the tutorial on how to make the lace cards. This a beautiful blog - check it out.

Dec 21, 2013

my dog quilt, part four

Progress is being made... little by little. I've finally finished all the hand applique... including ripping out quite a few original selections and making some improvements. Let the quilting begin...

Close up of my Bernina BSR... doing a great job handling all the layers of applique!

I've been blogging about this quilt since the beginning of November. This is part four. If you want to see the whole process (and learn more about David Taylor), you can go back through the past few blog posts.

When I finish this quilt, I am going to post an update showing a series of photos from beginning to end.

But this might take a while...

I am machine quilting this one. Using Aurifil exclusively --- with only black, white and gray on the dog.

I tried a lot of different thread combinations, including several beautiful variegated combos... but I couldn't control the color where I wanted it to be.  The dog is mostly all black and I have already gone through 3/4 of a spool of black thread. Using 50 wt. The quilting on this is very intense!  I'm quilting very close lines and for the parts that need to be infused with gray or white, I am leaving space in between the quilted black lines and coming back to add the other two colors. I am trying not to quilt lines on top of each other. I want just one pure line... that is the idea anyway.  The back of this quilt looks just awesome. I'll reveal that at the end!

This photo of the quilt on the machine shows my small space and my trusty Bernina!  I have the back of the quilt lifted up with clamps so I don't have the weight to push around. This helps immensely!  And this is especially useful since I am quilting in such a small space... I don't have much room at the back of my machine. But I find in life, as Tim Gunn would say you gotta "make it work."  I love my house and I love having my studio where it is... so I trade those things for having a larger space with a big sewing table.

It also helps that my area is custom built to my specs. And the husband even built a custom shelf to lower my Bernina so that the extended table is flush with the counter. Awesome! That also helps with the weight of the quilt by keeping it flat with the machine.

Here is a close up of one section.

Thanks for reading and going on this journey with me!

Stay tuned for more.

Happy holidays!

I am linking up with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays. Check out all the great work there:

Dec 14, 2013

time to label - index card style

When I finish a quilt, it seems the last thing I want to do is take time to make a label for it. But I recently learned a great lesson... and that got me to work making these.
Before you laugh - I know these are not pretty! They are not even all that well made. But - keep reading. 
I have covered up names and other details - TMI for the internet!
The lesson I learned came a few weeks back when I followed my aunt into her attic to look at old quilts. What I discovered up there was enough quilts to do a large antique quilt show of quilts from 1900 - 1950's. No joke! The place is like a museum... and there was an astounding number of quilts up there. But the really cool thing was the way they were packaged and labeled. Each quilt was neatly folded, covered with a plastic bag and then placed in a box to protect it from dust. Even better, each quilt included an index card marking all of the pertinent information on it... the maker, dates, where it was purchased, or who it was made for, etc. It was very impressive.  Especially since a lot of these quilts were award winners from county fairs, or they were made especially for family members or special events.

After about 16 years of quilting, I have so many of my older (traditional style) quilts that the husband threatens that we will need to add on to the house to store them all! But only a few of these have labels. Some of them I made so long ago that I can't even remember the exact year I made them.

Now, I know that there are lots of great books and blog posts written about all the creative ways you can (and should) make labels. And maybe this is what's been holding me back... the pressure to make something good! I'm always ready to move on to the next project and don't want to expend creative energy on a label.

So I decided to pick up on the "quickie" index card idea. Here's the result. These are not pretty! They are not even that well made!  But they were quick to make, and because of that, I'm happy! I've made seven so far... New Year's resolution? Finish the other ___???! (that is not a typo! I don't even know how many I need to make!)

I wrote what I wanted the label to say on the computer and printed it out.  Then I used a light-box to copy it onto the cotton fabric using Micron archival pens. The archival pens won't bleed or fade, so the idea with these pens is that a generation or two from now, you'll still be able to read them (I hope).

Also, I very quickly stitched out a few of embroidery stitches available on my fancy Bernina. Since I mostly do free motion quilting, I rarely use all the available stitches. So this was kind of a test lab of stitches... again, not all that pretty (and I didn't rip out the mistakes, you'll notice). But the stitches added just a touch of interest.

I'll leave you with a close up of the 1940's vintage quilt that was given to me by my aunt! Because of the care she took to label it, I know who made this quilt, when it was made (1940), when she purchased it (1950s)... and then I added on the label that it was gifted to me in 2013!

And that is a story worth remembering!

Dec 11, 2013

my dog quilt, part three

And suddenly... a beautiful dog appeared on a bright lime green background.

One of the things I love most about doing applique work... is to me, the pieces of fabric are just pieces of fabric, nothing more... UNTIL they are sewn to their intended spot. Then suddenly the two pieces join and morph from just pieces of fabric to art.

Well, for the past several weeks this quilt top has been just a bunch of pieces. And now it has the beginnings of a piece of art. I am so thrilled.

Today's post is part three in my series! All of the hand applique (over 200 pieces!) is complete - except for the pupil in the eye.

Now that I have finished the hardest part, at least what I think will be the hardest part, I have pinned this on a board and set it across the room so I can get some distance and different perspective. I am studying all of the fabric choices and I already see several that need to change.  So I'll be spending the next week or so perfecting the individual pieces, ripping out some, and redoing a few.

Next step is to hand embroider the whiskers. And I might do a small bit of thread painting to add a few gray hairs in certain parts.

Then, eventually I will begin quilting it.  I can't wait. I'm not sure if I'll start this before Christmas... or let it sit. Probably won't be able to ignore it too long.

I'd love your thoughts and comments.

I am linking up with Freshly Pieced Wednesday WIP. And Friday with Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday link up! Be sure to check out both of these blogs for lots of interesting art quilting.

Here is Nina Marie's link:

Dec 2, 2013

a quilt store a little closer to Heaven

It's rare to visit someplace today and still find something local.

But one thing us quilters can be thankful for (especially this time of year) is that the vast majority of quilt stores are still individually owned and operated... and that means they're truly 'local.'  Very few places can claim that these days... maybe a few restaurants and bars, and odd places like bike shops and boutiques. Outside of that, most of the retail world is more generic, run by corporate, big box stores.

Maybe that's why shopping for fabric is still so much fun. You never know exactly what you'll find!

At this particular quilt store... what you'll find is a setting that might make you feel, well, a little closer to Heaven!
Heavenly Treasures, Pawnee City, Nebraska
Heavenly Treasures calls itself the "best little quilt shop this side of Heaven" and you'll find this modest jewel in the former First Baptist Church in the small town of Pawnee City, Nebraska.

I love discovering and writing about quilt stores. My last blog post about an extraordinary and out of the way quilt store was a one-woman shop on the edge of Texas just a few miles from the border with Mexico.

Heavenly Treasures, on the other hand, is 'smack dab' near the center of America, and sits in a place that's about as fresh-faced and unexpected as they come.

Pawnee City is only a 90-minute drive from the International Quilt Studies Center & Museum in Lincoln. If you're ever visiting the area and want to see a bit of this corner of Nebraska, its well worth the trip.

The store still feels a lot like a church... you'll browse for fabrics underneath huge stained glass windows and the original high ceiling... and you'll find the ironing board sitting in a true place of honor: The Altar!

As the story goes... membership of the church was declining so the leadership wanted to sell the building. But rather than tear it down to build something modern, or worse let it decay from neglect, the new owners of this former church have re-purposed an old building and given it a whole new life. And judging from the slow but steady customer visits, it appears to have a bright future. 

The Heavenly Treasures ironing board has
found a place of honor, right there on the altar!

Heavenly Treasures is filled with wonderful quilt fabrics (these fabrics are the real deal! something for everyone... Stonehenge... Judy Rothermel... Kaufman batiks... lots of great Modas...etc.) and notions, plus a few other stitching goods, books, finished quilts, the list goes on.

Thank you Heavenly Treasures for serving Nebraskans... and for serving the rest of us who stop by every now and then for a divine shopping experience. 

Most of all, thank you for staying local!