Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment

Well, I am embarassed to say I haven't blogged in a month.  Between work and house hunting, life is nothing short of crazy.  And to top it off, every time I try to pull pictures off my camera Adobe Bridge gets locked up, so no pictures.  And while I just know you love to read what I write  :)  I know how much everyone loves to see the blog.

My big news is that today I filmed my Aha moment with Mutual of Omaha.  Tuesday morning I got an email from the traveling Mutual of Omaha film crew that is on a 25-city tour taping people talking about their very own aha moments.  They read my blog and asked me to participate in the campaign.  Can you believe it??  Well, it's true!! I did my taping tonight.  I will have a link to post with my taping in about 30 days.  Mutual of Omaha will be measuring how many hits every person in the campaign receives and the top ones are moved to a national voting forum.  The top picks get to be in a tv commercial.  OMG!!! 

I brought along "Bird's Eye View" and "Flower Power."  The crew took pictures of me holding the quilts and we discussed when my quilting aha moment was and how it has changed my life.

As soon as I get the link, I will post it for everyone (including me) to see!  I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I had filming it.

Here are a few pictures of both Bird's Eye View (still not finished) and Flower Power (my personal favorite.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where has the time gone?

It's been crazy around here and I just realized I haven't blogged in 2 weeks!  

I haven't had much time for quilting, since I've re-entered the work world full time.  But I did manage to get in a full day workshop with Aniko Feher a few weeks back and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Aniko not only has terrific techniques for making an incredible looking portrait, but her sense of humor about life and quilting entertained me the whole day.

Everyone worked on the same portrait of a girl named "Nadiia" that stayed with Aniko for a while. 

I've done a portrait of Toby, my aussie, but my method took tons more time.  Aniko's method is just about bullet proof.  I have to try it out on a photo of someone I actually know!!  haha.

I did, just tonight, finish quilting the "S" quilt.  I underestimated the amount of quilting time I had left, but I'm thinking it was about 10 hours all together.  Not too bad for a 76" x 86" quilt, done on my domestic machine.  I used YLI trilobal polyester and it quilted up like butter!  I highly recommend stepping out of the "cotton thread only" mindset and try some different threads.  I also love Robison Anton thread.  Both brands are 40 weight and work well, in my Juki, with a size 90 or 100 needle.

Keep quilting!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Almost Done

It's been a while since I wrestled with a big quilt under the Juki.  I've got 5 hours into the quilting so far and I'd say another 2 hours to go.  YAY!  I never mark my quilts.  I just start in the middle and work my way around, usually in one overall design when I'm working on a big quilt with busy fabric.  For this quilt I chose a loopy flower that I made up.  The flowers change in size and number of petals depending on where I am and how much space I have.  I get really excited when the quilt is at this point- so close and yet so far, too.  I always bind by hand and this quilt is 76" x 86" so it'll take me 5 or more hours to do the binding.  But then I will have my very own couch quilt.

I made Jay a couch quilt last January just after I got the Juki.  I have 3 machines now.  The Juki is a TL98Q and I love, love, love it!  It is a simple straight stitch machine, but it's super fast, at 1600 stitches per minute.  I do all my quilting on it, and occasionally some piecing.

Machine # 2 is a new Bernina Aurora 430.  It's got all the bells and whistles the Juki lacks, like fancy stitches, button hole choices, and a great zigzag.  I didn't get the stitch regulator.  For me, one of the best parts of quilting is the challenge of making stitches uniform in size.  It took me months of daily practice to achieve consistent stitch length, of which I am very proud.

As a backup, I've also got an old Pfaff 7570 that I purchased from a quilter that had bought a newer model Pfaff.  I actually bought this machine to replace my original Bernina 1090 I bought way back in 1994.  I got sucked into a "Pfaff Cult" and was convinced to trade my Bernina away for a Pfaff, which I did.  I regretted that decision the moment my old Bernina was shipped off to a lovely lady in Utah.  After months of trying to love the Pfaff I gave up, caved in, and bought the new Bernina.   I haven't looked back since and am happily a Bernina girl once again.

Since I've also been doing garment sewing I bought a Bernina Serger too.  So I guess I actually have 4 machines all together!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"S" Quilt Back is Pieced too!

I used a bunch of my lime and purple hand-dyed cotton sateen and paired it with left overs from the top to come up with 4 HUGE blocks  for the back of my yellow "s" quilt.  I made an 18" x 76" strip set, added some sashing, and presto, done!

I did get to do more dyeing over the weekend, as the weather was just gorgeous.   I don't have all of my fat quarter to show you, cause I SOLD them!! to a lovely lady from the Asheville Quilt Guild.  Yup, I sold some of my hand-dyeds!!  Woohoo.  Maureen is making one of the blocks for the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Quilt also.  She is doing a landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I whipped up a bunch of blues/violets, and some "fall foliage" looking pieces.  I managed to get some pics before she came by for them.

These are the blues/violets for the mountains in the background

A nice piece with oranges, greens, blues, browns, yellows

I played with a new fabric; a cotton/linen blend.  It may become my new favorite fabric.  I'm going to make a skirt and see how it sews up.  One of my new quilting friends, Carrie, turned me on to it.  She uses it as a base fabric for pillows and for sashing in her quilts, also.  

Pinks, purples, and reds on cotton/linen

Reds, golds, rust on cotton/linen

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Vera Bradley Fabric and 2 Easy and Quick Projects

I dyed up a bunch of lime and purple yesterday for the back of the "S" quilt.  I am going to piece the back with an 18" x 76" strip set of all the fabrics I used on the top along with giant blocks made from the lime and purple.

Lime and Purple with the strip set

It rained all day today, so I put more dyeing on the back burner.  I am excited that one of my fellow guild members, Maureen, has asked me to dye some special fabric for her block for the Blue Ridge Parkway Commemorative Quilt.  But the fun will have to wait till tomorrow when it's sunny and warm.

In the meantime, I whipped up a little pouch and matching pin cushion from some Vera Bradley 4" squares I bought eons ago on ebay.  My original intention for the fabric was to make something for Rachel, but she wasn't crazy about the fabric, so I made something for me!! WOW!
I used some fusible interlining and a juicy red for the inside.  I'm going to use it to carry my marking pencils and other small tools when I'm working away from my sewing room.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yellow "S" Quilt is pieced!

I really enjoyed piecing this yellow "s" quilt top, designed by K Fassett.  After doing such tedious piecing work on the lone star, this project was a nice reprieve.  The hardest part was figuring out the instructions provided.  Sometimes pattern writers try to save space by being cryptic, and this pattern was no exception.  If I didn't have the color photo of a finished quilt, I would've been lost.  I ended up counting the number of 10.5" strips I saw in the finished quilt to interpret just how to cut the strips.  And the cutting of strips took me longer than the piecing.  I think I spent almost 7 1/2 hours just cutting and cutting and cutting some more.

My Yellow "S" Quilt top

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Road Trip to Tennessee Quilts

Patsy and I were going to have a play date on Friday and dye fabrics and threads.   Unfortunately, we didn't discuss our plans with the weather, which didn't cooperate.  It was just plain yucky out.  So, instead we headed to Tennessee Quilts in Jonesborough.  Over the mountains and through the fog we went.

Patsy was on a mission to find some prints to coordinate with her beautiful hand-dyeds for a project she's working on for the upcoming Quilt Market in May.  I had no agenda, but that wasn't going to stop me.  We walked into the shop and BAM, there they were...K Fassett quilts draped over the upstairs balcony for all to see.  I was a goner.

I bought everything I needed to make the Yellow "S" quilt in his book, Country Garden Quilts except for the backing fabric.  I am going to dye some fabric for the back.

I couldn't stop there and leave well enough alone.  No, no.  I HAD to buy more K Fassett to go with some of my hand-dyeds so I could create my own design.  So, I ended up buying another 9 yards of various dots, designs, and stripes.  What fun!!

Yummy K. Fassett fabrics.

And, as if that wasn't enough, Patsy gave me a bunch of 12 weight cotton threads from various vendors to dye.

Thread, thread, and more thread!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Batiking with Home Made Stamps

I got all 8 points of the lone star done yesterday as planned, but now I've got to figure out how to piece together the background fabric.  I am going to applique in the background, so I've got to do that work before I finish the piecing.  So...that means I am going to be blogging about other stuff in the meantime.

I decided to try batiking.  I LOVE batiking!  I absolutely love it!  I used Malka Dubrawsky's new book, Color Your Cloth, as a guide, and spent the afternoon playing with soy wax and some home made stamps.

I went to Michael's and found a few wood stamps that were on sale for $.29.  You gotta love it!  Jay glued a small piece of wood to the back of each stamp as a handle.  

Wood Shapes made into stamps.  I also bought a bag of paper doll holders- I had no idea what they were,  except I thought I could make some shapes with the circles.  They worked great too.  Jay used wood glue, which held up well.

I also found a bunch of small cookie cutters at an antique shop while in Berkeley Springs, WV last week.  I used a potato to make stamps with a few of the shapes.  

The key when working with vegetables is you have to have patience for the veggie to heat up in the wax before it can used.  If the veggie isn't warm enough, the wax just makes a seal over it and you can't stamp.

My potato stamp and the cookie cutter

Stamping flowers with my potato stamp on red fabric

I started with some of my solid hand-dyed fabrics and stamped out a pattern with soy wax.  I decided to go with soy wax as opposed to batik wax for 1 main reason:  soy wax easily comes off the fabric in hot water and doesn't require boiling in a stock pot for 45 minutes.

Here is some of the fabric I made today with the wax still on

I love this exclamation point stamp

I'm not sure what to call this shape, but I like it!

After waxing, I discharged the red and turquoise pieces.  I'm going to cut the fabric into small squares and make a placemat and/or drink coaster.

The turquoise discharged to a very pretty aqua and the red turned orange.

I discharged and over-dyed the navy, light green, and orange pieces.  I don't have a picture of those yet, since they're still hanging out in the dye bath.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Making of a Modern Lone Star, Part 2: strips and piecing

I've been busy on the lone star.  To start where we left off,  I had to cut enough strips of each color according to my grid mock up.  As a reminder:  I needed 1 strip of fabric for EACH diamond in my grid mock up.  I am making a 7 x 7  lone star, which basically means there are seven diamonds that travel out from the center diamond, for a total of 7 x 7, or 49 diamonds within each point of my 8 pointed lone star.  I used 49 strips; 8 each of turquoise and yellow/orange, 13  lime, and 20 pink.

I decided on a 2 1/4" side strip which would give me a 1 3/4" finished size diamond.  After cutting all the strips, I stacked the first set of 7 strips and made an initial cut on a 45 degree angle. 

I lined up the 45 degree line on the ruler with the bottom edge of my  fabric strip stack.  This saves a ton of fabric.

With the first set of strips all angled up nicely, I laid out the 7 strips in order so I wouldn't get confused when sewing them together.  This is a really good way to keep yourself on track.

I've lined up the 7 strips as my map tells me to do.  I'm working on row 6.  Pink, turquoise, pink, turquoise, pink, lime, pink (laid out from top to bottom).   I sewed the strips from bottom to top! Pink, lime, pink, turquoise, pink, turquoise, pink

Sewing the strip sets was easy!  I decided to use a seam guide on this project so all my seams would be consistent.   To do this, I put the seam guide under my needle and brought the needle down and through the tiny hole in the guide.  I then used a stack of pink post its and lined the post its up against the guide.  That way, as I feed my fabric, I will have the post its as a guide.  Since I'm just sewing long strips together at this point, there are no seams/points to join.   Just sew a nice, consistent, scant quarter inch seam. 

 Once you've got your post its lined up, just remove the guide and you're ready to piece.

 The fabric glides beautifully along the post it and keeps my seams very consistent.

While it's OK to wait to press open the seams, I found it much easier to sew a row, then press a seam, sew a row, press a seam.  And yes, I pressed the seams open!! Not to one side.  There is a trick to perfectly matched seams, and it depends, in part, on a pressed open seam.

 I hold the seam and lift a bit with my right hand (since I'm a lefty) as I use the nose of the iron to open the seam.

Once I had the 7 sets of 7 strips sewn together,  I had to make 2 1/4" strips of each set.  I got 10 sets of strips from each strip set, although I will only use 8, one for each point of the star.

Here's a picture of my ruler, still with the blue tape guides I used before, since I started with 2 1/4" long strips, I will cut my strip sets also 2 1/4" wide, starting with a 45 degree initial clean up cut.  This step is very important, so go slowly.

All my strips sets stacked and ready to piece together.  Yay!

Now it's time to sew together each set of strips to make 1 complete point of the 8-pointed star.  Jan Krentz has an amazing trick to help get seams that "kiss" each other perfectly.  She makes a DOT with a pen or pencil on one strip and matches the dot up with the bottom edge of the pressed open seam from the other strip.  I know this sounds complicated, but I've got a few pictures below to help you along with this.  

Using my ruler, I made a small dot with my micron pen on strip 1, placed strip two on top of strip one, Right Sides Together, and brought the bottom edge of the pressed open seam of strip two to meet with the dot on strip one.

Can you see how I'm making a dot 1/8" above the seam where the lime and pink strip meets?

Here is another picture showing the dot 1/8" above the seam.

Look closely at this picture so you can see the bottom half of the pink/lime seam of strip 2.  I have tried to match the bottom edge of the lime with the dot on strip one.  I continued to match each seam with each dot for each strip!!

Once I've sewn together the 7 strips in my stack, I've got a complete point!  So far, I have 2 done and #3 half done.  I've been away for 5 days visiting the mother-in-law in VA, so I'm going to get right back to it.  I want to have all 8 points done by end of day Wednesday.

They look kinda "bumpy" at this juncture because I am not going to press the seams until I'm done piecing all 8 points.  I'm going to "block" each point, kind of like blocking when you knit something, so you can't really see just how well the seams "kiss" each other, but believe me, they do!!

Next time we'll start putting the star together!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Making of a Modern Lone Star, Part 1: design and setup

I've decided to try my hand at a lone star to enter into the Asheville Quilt Show this August.  It was a painful process of figuring out exactly what I wanted to do to make the quilt stand out and not be a typical traditional quilt.  After much anxiety and changing my mind a zillion times, I am making a "modern" lone star.  It's modern because 1) the color choices 2) the shape of the fabric that will surround the center lone star, and 3) the quilting design.

I dyed up a bunch of cotton sateen in fuchsia, turquoise, lime green, and orange/yellow.  The background is what I call "eggplant" color.  I have to thank Melody Johnson of Fibermania for helping me with the lime green.  I practically went bald pulling my hair out trying to get the color I wanted to no avail. I kept mixing the same colors (taking the same actions) thinking I'd get a different result.  That's the Albert Einstein definition of insanity, isn't it?    While the lime green I was getting was very pleasing, it wasn't as "crisp and clean" as I wanted.  I finally emailed Mel and she generously corrected the shades of yellow and blue dye powder I had been working with.   So after a little tweaking, whala!  Lime-a-licious, as Mel described it.

The colors, sitting on my eggplant background

I also got a copy of Jan Krentz' book, Lone Star Quilts and Beyond as well as the accompanying video.  She has a few easy tricks to help ensure the diamond points kiss each other just right.  It's all in the prep, which I will share with you as I go along on this project.

To start, Jan tricks up her ruler to help with consistent cutting of the strips.  She scores some blue painters tape with a box cutter or xacto knife, grabs several layers together, and sticks the tape against the line on the ruler equal to the strip width.  Since I need 2 1/4" strips, I placed my blue tape chunks against the 2 1/4" mark on several places along the ruler.  Because the tape lifts the ruler, you can butt your fabric up perfectly against the tape, which gives you consistent and straight strips every time!

  The tape is lined up across the width of the ruler at the 2 1/4" mark

I also took Jan's suggestion of 1) drawing out a grid layout and 2) using mirrors to mock up 1 complete diamond to audition different fabric placements.  Jay got me a box of  12" x 12" mirrors at Lowes uber cheap and taped them together.  To make your own magic mirror:

1) Lay the mirrors, face down on your work table, leaving about a 1/4" gap in between, with the top edges of the mirrors lined up.

2) Using a heavy duty tape, (Jay used black gorilla tape), connect the mirrors together with the tape at the top, bottom, and down the center seam between the tiles.

It's that simple!!

Mirrors taped together with black gorilla tape. Notice the small gap in between the mirror tiles.  The gap lets you hinge the mirrors.

My grid layout with all the info I need.
Each diamond requires 1 strip.  I needed 8 each of turquoise and orange/yellow, 13  lime green, and 20 pink.

 After you cut up tons of little individual diamonds in the fabrics of your choice, place them in the grid layout.   Then stand up your mirror and straddle the diamond mockup.  Whala!  You can see the entire star design with mirror magic.  You won't be using these little diamonds in your actual quilt, so be sure you have enough of the fabric to both make the mock up and cut all the strips you need.

Here is my mock up.  I'm showing you 2 pictures here.  Jay took 1 picture in focus and another one out of focus.  The out of focus picture lets me see the balance of color and value in my fabric choices. 

 Here is the "in focus" picture.  Notice how I can see about half a lone star by using the mirrors.  The star is very large, so Jay made the mirror trick with 4 mirror tiles.

I love how this "out of focus" picture lets me see the movement of the color and values.

Gotta go now and start sewing the strips together!

Monday, March 8, 2010

My etsy shop is up and running

I did it!  I opened an etsy shop today to sell my hand-dyed fabrics.  It was pretty easy to do, but I admit I read a bunch of other seller's shop policies, etc to get a feel for what information I should probably have out there.   I was able to get the name "amys quilt room" to match the blog.

I put 4 fabrics up for sale today and will post another 3 or 4 tomorrow.  I did a bunch of dyeing this weekend since the weather was grand.  It was in the high 50's yesterday and reached 60' today.  I worked with my new fav fabric, cotton sateen.  I did some mottled stuff, some shibori, and some direct dye painting.  As always, I was happily surprised with my results, except for a yellow piece.  It just didn't mottle very nicely, so I overdyed it by first adding purple dye to the yellow fabric, followed by fuchsia.  I think it's my favorite one of the bunch now!

I'm calling it "Forest Light"



"Purple and Pink Parfait"


"Yellow and Orange Parfait"


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dogwood Panel is Finished!

Well, here it is.  I finished the dogwood panel that will be part of the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary Commemorative Quilt. 

I really enjoyed making the panel.  It measures 36 x 16.  I used my own hand-dyed fabrics and chose invisible machine applique as the technique.  For the thread play I tried and LOVED YLI Variations, a 35 wt trilobal polyester.  It has a wonderful sparkle to it and quilted up beautifully.  I almost put a green/yellow fabric in the center of each one, but instead decided to jazz it up a bit with # 8 and # 11 seed beads.  My friend Elaine showed me the moss stitch which I used in clusters in the center of each dogwood.

I unveiled it at yesterday's board meeting of the guild to many oohs and ahhs.  That was awesome!  As this was my first time participating in a group quilt project, I was so nervous my work wouldn't be up to par with everyone else's...  You really wouldn't believe how much stress I had over this.  And for what? 

Now I'm ready to start dyeing fabric for the quilt I've designed for the big quilt show in Asheville this summer.  It's going to be held at the NC Arboretum, a beautiful 434-acre sanctuary in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest inside the Pisgah National Forest and a short distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I'll keep you posted!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Stash does not runneth over, yet!

I've seen so many terrific sewing room setups online recently I decided it was time for me to organize my stash.  Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a stash, at least not by most quilters' standards.  I dye/buy, I consume, I dye/buy, I consume.   I ended up with 4 drawers of fabric, separated as follows:
  • "other peoples" hand-dyeds
  • batiks (I love them)
  • prints
  • "my" hand-dyeds

All my fabric is tucked away, neat as a pin, for now at least, in this  awesome cutting table Jay made me last year.  It's 72 x 40 with 2 sets of pull out drawers and a center open area for additional storage.  I've got hooks on the sides to hang my rulers and my rotary cutters and scissors fit very nicely in the top 2 skinny drawers.  And best of all, he built it on industrial casters so I can easily move it around and then lock it into place. What Jay doesn't know YET, is that I do want a huge stash of thread.  I just love thread and am newly inspired by how Patsy Thompson hyperquilts with luscious trilobal polyester threads by YLI and Superior.  Patsy and her husband, Ernie, have created several instructional DVDs dedicated to free motion quilting and have new DVDs coming out on hyperquilting.  So while I won't hoard fabric, I will absolutely hoard thread.  The more the better.

I also hung some smaller wall quilts around my workroom.  We are living in a 1940 stone cottage on the edge of North Asheville.  All the walls are plaster and I've been too afraid to put a nail in the wall.  So instead of actually hanging things where they'd look good or fit properly, I just randomly hang things on nails that are already in the walls.  Ugh.  Here is a fused applique/ thread sketched piece I made of my beloved aussie, Toby.  It really looks exactly like him.  He stares at me while I am at my sewing table.  Kinda cool.

(Click to enlarge for more detail)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gradations by Squeezing and Wringing

My new and insanely talented friend, Patsy Thompson,  of Patsy Thompson Designs brought me some fabric samples a few weeks ago to play with.  I dyed up a small piece each of cotton/silk "radiance," cotton sateen, cotton bamboo, and egyptian cotton.  Each piece was dyed in the same dye bath.  Look at the differences!

From top to bottom:

Egyptian cotton
cotton sateen

Yesterday I decided to try Melody Johnson's "Lazy Dyer" technique for creating solids.  She fondly refers to this method as the Squeeze and Wring.

I used a natural color cotton sateen (my new favorite fabric for dyeing) and worked with deep navy, strongest red, and deep orange to create 3 and 4 step gradations.  Using the same amount of dye concentrate, each step was made by adding twice the water as the previous step.  That sounds pretty confusing...let me try again.  I used 1/4 cup dye concentrate Straight Up for the darkest piece, then used 1/4 cup dye concentrate plus 1/4 cup water for the medium dark piece, then 1/4 cup dye concentrate plus 1/2 cup water for the light piece.

I had an extra 1/4 yard of fabric (how that is possible dividing a yard into 4 pieces is my own stupidity for tearing along the selvedge without realizing it before it was too late!) so I did an extra piece of dark navy using 1/4 cup concentrate with 3/4 cup water.  I actually LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the color!!  It reminds me of a great pair of blue jeans.

Nobody warned me how addictive dyeing fabrics can be. 

And I am trying to keep a journal of my dyeing recipes.  You'd think since I'm a trained CPA I was meticulous and organized!  You'd be wrong!!!  My office during tax season used to look like a bomb exploded in there, but I always knew where everything was, well almost everything.


It's a start in the right direction at least.