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

Mar 12, 2014

my first commission - a Sue Spargo quilt

My quilt buddy Amy G. asked me to machine quilt her hand appliqued, hand embroidered Sue Spargo quilt. She offered to pay me too, so I think that qualifies as my first "commission!"

Amy G. is a master and she works almost entirely by hand. She also hand quilts all her quilts. But this one is made with mostly wool applique... and there are many layers of wool in some parts, which means it would be nearly impossible to hand quilt.

So, its over to me and the trusty Bernina to machine quilt it! Fingers crossed. :)

This is a bit intimidating, actually. If I sew for myself, I just go for it and don't worry too much.  But, as you can see from the pictures, Amy has put a lot of hand work into this, so the challenge will be to enhance those embellishments, and not detract from them! I hope I don't screw it up. But I guess that is why God made seam rippers.

My plan is to try to mimic the circles and lines with tiny free motion lines (and thread) that blend into the background. We've already picked some beautiful Aurifil threads.

Next, I will quilt designs on top of the birds... also in a matching thread. Luckily I have a huge selection of thread colors! My Aurifil rack is below, just waiting for me to get started!! Choosing the perfect thread will be a lot of fun. I just hope my machine quilting skill can match Amy G's handwork.

More to come as I make progress. For now, I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced Wednesday WIP!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Mar 4, 2014

book review: Amish Quilts

I just finished reading a really interesting book. "Amish Quilts" by Janneken Smucker explains how Amish quilts --- which at one time. of course, were just called quilts --- came to be a major American brand.

link to Amazon

She tells a fascinating story of how old, dark-colored quilts made by Amish women came to be sought out by collectors and how only these quilts came to be valued as "Amish" while other quilts of original design were considered less "Amish" by outsiders.

If you've ever had an interest in marketing and the making of a brand, or art history or collecting, you will love this book.

Its a fairly academic approach to the content, in fact the book is published by John Hopkins University Press, but still, its quite readable and covers quite a bit of territory. It was published recently, 2013.

The frenzy of collecting and owning authentic Amish quilts began in the late 1960s and early 1970s when art enthusiasts from New York began comparing these pieced quilts --- the plain ones made with dark fabrics and covered in intricate hand stitching --- to abstract art.

Once that comparison was made, the race was on and a brand was born.

Lot of city folk and antique dealers, some called "pickers" made connections to the Amish community and "picked up" these old quilts for low prices. They visited homes where these quilts were often stored in attics, or trunks. Then they sold them in the cities for much more... and these pickers began the making of a brand of quilts.

The book also covers how eventually, industrious Amish women realized they could make money with quilts themselves... rather than sell low and let their profits go to dealers in the city. They came to see quilting as a way to supplement the family's farm income and many of them went into business making and selling quilts.

The author also covers how non-Amish dealers commissioned these quilts, and explains the genesis of some of the major collections of Amish quilts in the U.S.

It even talks about how major retail chains, such as Land's End, came to offer an exclusive collection of handmade Amish quilts and how Lancaster County tried desperately to own and protect a large collection of quilts in order to promote tourism in Pennsylvania.

As the author explains, 'Amish' - in connection with 'quilt' - originally meant different things to different people. But today, Amish quilts are a brand name that no one protects or controls, but is firmly associated with a particular style of Americana and quilts of a certain color made by one particular community.

Title: Amish Quilts, Crafting an American Icon
Author: Janneken Smucker
Publisher: The John Hopkins University Press
Edition: 2013