Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The IQA 2015 Houston Raffle Quilt; Getting Ready to Piece

After working on my practice blocks and figuring out where I would need to make changes, I went back to the drawing board. In this case, my drawing board is Electric Quilt 7. I have found this pattern drafting software to be utterly invaluable when creating quilts that are out of the ordinary. I'm not exactly what you might call a math whiz and, unfortunately, a lot of math is required when drafting funky quilt patterns. Using this software frees me from the math part and allows me to focus on the creative part, which is exactly what I want. One of the other things that I really like about this program is that it allows me to quickly see where I'm going to run into trouble and allows me to make the changes needed to head that trouble off at the pass. For example; this quilt is going to have a center medallion and, in the first draft, I thought it would be super cool to have a center medallion with swooping, curving lines. After drafting it, I needed only one look to realize that, while it might look super cool, all of those curved lines would definitely give me a heart attack. Draft #2: Fewer curved lines. I pieced a square medallion and placed the points of my medallion right at the seam line. However, after seeing in EQ7 what that finished medallion was going to look like, I realized that it was going to be a real bear to piece the medallion without chopping off the heads of all of my points. Because I do not think that anyone will be at all impressed by a medallion full of blunted points, I used the program to quickly redraft the pattern and move my points away from the seams so that they 'float' within the block. Yay! EQ7 allows me to go in and adjust piecing orders, piecing lines, shapes, everything. I love it because it allows me to effortlessly tweak, fiddle with, and adjust my patterns to make them as perfect as possible. Only rarely am I able to use the first draft of a pattern for my quilts because I end up doing so much tweaking and adjusting. For this quilt, I think I went through about 12 drafts before I felt I was 'close enough' for practice blocks.


After using EQ7 to fix all of my initial errors, I printed out my corrected pattern on foundation paper.

This paper is very light, which makes it easy to see your fabric clearly. (this is important, because if you can see it clearly you'll have an easier time placing it correctly.) Additionally, it is sturdy enough to run easily through a printer but fragile enough to tear away easily when you're all done piecing.

Next, I cut my patterns apart into individual segments. I'll begin by piecing the curved segment with the floating diamonds, so I cut that segment away from the rest of the block, then cut the segment into individual sections for piecing. Before cutting, I numbered the pieces for easier reassembly. (this pic shows only sections 5-9 because I've already pieced sections 1-4) I always save at least one uncut version of the pattern for reference because we all know that I need a map.

After I spent about forty-eleven hours on their web site trying to decide which fabrics to use, SewBatik sent me a box full of eye candy.

After drooling all over it, I starched it with two coats of liquid Sta-Flo starch, mixed 1:4 with water (one part Sta-Flo, four parts water). Always apply your starch to WARMED fabric to avoid flaking (warm the fabric by simply running your iron over it a time or two, then spritz on the starch). I do my starching in two light coats instead of one heavy coat because, in addition to avoiding flakes, I find this method gives me a more even starching and more consistent body, but that's just me.

Next, it's time to sub-cut the fabric. I am a frugal quilter and don't like to waste fabric but, at the same time, I also do not like to panic while piecing because it looks like I might not have enough fabric to make a good seam allowance. When sub-cutting for paper piecing, I want a piece of fabric that will adequately cover the spot it's supposed to cover and give me good seam allowances plus just a tiny smidge extra. If you look at the pic below, you will see that the purple fabric covers the central diamond and it extends out just enough to give me nice 1/4 inch seam allowances all around, so this is the size that I will cut all of my diamond fabrics.

I store all of my cut fabrics with their pattern pieces in zip-lock baggies because I live in a house with dogs and busy people and windows that are open on nice days and I don't want my fabrics flying off the table and onto the floor. Also, I know that this project is going to take the better part of the spring to complete and if I don't bag them up they'll end up being eaten by dogs and then where will I be? Baggies it is.

Same for my background fabrics, accent fabrics, and completed sections.

I now have all of my prep work done and am ready to begin. Next up: paper piecing techniques!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The 2015 IQA Houston Raffle Quilt: Part 1

A while back, I was asked by the Board of the International Quilt Association to create the 2015 raffle quilt. To those who you who do not speak fluent Quilt, this is sort of like going to the Oscars and being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

It goes like this; you are invited to create the raffle quilt, but first you are asked to submit your vision of the quilt/artist's statement/fabric swatches/etc. to the Board at it's annual meeting, which takes place between Fall Market and Fall Festival. The quilt must be an original design, it must be over a certain size, and it must have several particular elements incorporated into it's design. The Board reviews your submission, suggests any changes it thinks should be made, and issues it's approval. You then have one year to create the quilt and must have it ready for presentation to the Board at the following year's annual meeting. After that, it travels to all of the IQA shows during that year and is displayed all across the country with your name in big bold letters for everyone in the industry to see. At the following year's Festival, the winning raffle ticket is drawn and off the quilt goes to it's new home. (proceeds from the raffle go to fund the IQA's educational projects.)

Naturally, I panicked.

After picking myself up off the floor, I got busy designing and came up with something that I thought would work. The Board liked it and suggested no changes. Bruce and Diane Magidson at SewBatik, who are two of the nicest people in the entire world, offered to provide the gorgeous batik fabrics for the quilt. Bliss! I love their fabrics, so I'm stoked.

Before starting on the real deal, I decided to make some practice blocks to ensure that the pattern I'd created was accurate. That's the thing with drafting your own patterns; you never know if they're really going to work until you make them, so you ALWAYS make a practice piece or two. This way, you can work out the bugs on fake fabric and not screw up the real fabric.

You start by printing out your patterns and pin/tape/glue/MacGyver them together.

Then you write about a million notes to yourself, all of which will be meaningless within a day or two.

Then you start piecing the block segments and you realize that you will need to cut your pieces larger so that you have enough fabric to have actual seam allowances.

And you realize that you will need to alter your stitching/assembly order so that you don't have funky seam joins hanging out in front of the entire world.

Then you get on a roll and have a couple of segments that go together pretty well, so you start thinking that you're a rock star, even though the blocks look really weird in the practice fabrics. While you're piecing, you write about a million more notes to yourself, which will completely mystify you when you try to decode them later.

And then you realize that it took you forever just to piece this one block and you count how many blocks there will be in the finished quilt and there are 36 and that's when you start drinking.

No pressure here. Nope, no pressure at all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's Wrong With Me, Anyway?

I'm cursed. It's a terrible curse, too. It's The Curse Of Always Having To Do Things The Hard Way. Woe is me.

So, I'm wandering around, minding my own business, cleaning up the house after the Thanksgiving madness. I thought about putting up the tree, but decided to wait until next weekend because, really, I'm just too tired after all of that tryptophan to do anything strenuous.

And then it occurred to me; I have the weekend free. Why not do a little piecing? Yeah, that's it! A little piecing! I've got a quick and easy table runner pattern that I've been thinking about making for several years. The first time I bought it was at a great little fabric shop in Kenai, Alaska called Robin's Place. I liked it, I bought it, I brought it home, I put it in a safe place, and I never saw it again. About 3 years after I bought it, I thought to myself "Hey! Where's that pattern?" and I turned my sewing room upside down looking for it. Nope, not here. Dang! So I called Robin's Place and bought it a second time. Naturally, two days after I ordered it, I found it sitting right there on the shelf where a blind person would have seen it. If it had been a snake it would have bit me and I'd be dead right now. So, now I've got two of this pattern and it's high time I make at least one of them.

Santa's Midnight Runner by Mount Redoubt Designs

I started digging through my stash, since 2012 was the Year of the Big Stash Reduction (fail!) and I am not allowed to buy any new fabric (fail again!). As I dug, and considered, and dug some more, and considered some more, it occurred to me that this table runner only has three tiny reindeer. Three?!? Everyone knows Santa has eight tiny reindeer. Nine, if you count Rudolph, which I do. With as many little nieces as I've got, there's no way I'm going to get away with making a Santa table runner that only has three reindeer on it. Curses. Foiled again.

And this is where the trouble started.

In the space of 14 seconds I went from working on a project that would have been done by Sunday night to working on a project that's going to take all week. Quickly realizing that if I added six more reindeer to this thing I'd have to use my table runner to line my driveway, because it would end up being about 42 feet long, I decided to change it from being a 17x52 table runner to being a 29x45 wall hanging. I will redraw the reindeer so they appear to be curving away from Santa's sleigh and heigh-hoing off into the wild blue yonder, diminishing in size as they curl away into the sky.

And speaking of sky, I decided that the background of four inch squares is too boring and the large size of the squares makes it too difficult to color shade that sky from deep purple-blue through rich cobalt into the rich turquoise that will be the background for the large silvery moon that the reindeer will be flying across and that will need to be carefully hand shaded with gleaming iridescent silver paint. So now my stupid sky is made up of 2 inch squares. About 40,000 of them. Sigh.

See what I mean about being cursed? Why didn't I just make the table runner and get it over with?

Here's where I began this morning

And here's where I ended tonight.

Tomorrow I will finish the layout and begin to sew all of those seams. Please send help.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Craftsy's Big Holiday Sale

Craftsy is having a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday all rolled into one sale. If you'd like to get my new class for half price, or treat yourself to a great food crafting or decorating class for the holidays for a killer great price, click the link below!

Craftsy Holiday Sale: All online classes are $19.99 or less. Sale ends Mon. Nov. 26th, at midnight!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Big Reveal

Once again, I find myself apologizing for the gap in posting. After a year spent mostly on the road, I'm finally at home and am starting to get caught up. I just can't tell you how wonderful it is to wake up in my own bed every morning, with my dogs breathing their horrid doggy breath in my face, knowing that it's going to be this way for a while. Hooray!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...The Big Craftsy Reveal!

After months of prep work, which included working with Alycia Carmin at Alycia Quilts, the wonderful Bruce and Diane Magidson of Sew Batik fabrics, and the great Craftsy peeps on a beautiful Quilts of Valor Mystery Quiltalong it was finally time to start filming. Handi Quilter graciously allowed us to film at their facility in beautiful Salt Lake City (if you've never visited that city, you should. Talk about a nice place to visit!) and provided us with a top of the line new machine for use during filming, enough food to keep us going for weeks, and the friendliest staff I've ever worked with. I just love Handi Quilter. They hire the nicest people ever.

Craftsy sent out a fantastic crew, who impressed the living daylights out of me every step of the way. There was Tonya, who kept us all focused and on track, James, who kept us all smiling and never once lost his cheerful grin (and has the ability to imitate numerous Oscar winning actors at the drop of a hat) and Nicole, the quiet genius who sat behind her computer directing us flawlessly and never losing track of where we were and where we were going.

The team arrived with cases and trunks galore, and immediately started unpacking and setting up, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open. It was absolutely astonishing to see how much expensive equipment they had shoved into those trunks! There were two cameras; a stationary master camera manned by Tonya and a moveable camera on a boom which was manned by James. There were big lights, little lights, and spotlights. There were microphones that hung from booms, microphones attached to cameras, and microphones attached to me. There were cables and cords and computers and monitors. There were washtubs full of water bottles, boxes of munchies, and a whole lot of chocolate. Which, of course, we needed in order to keep us from perishing. Film crews, it turns out, need almost as much chocolate as quilters do. Who knew?

This is what the set looked like through TOnya's master camera. On her various little monitors, she could see the set, her camera's view of the set, and James' camera's view. Very cool.

I knew that the only way I'd ever stay organized enough to shoot almost a dozen different episodes over the course of just a couple of days was if I made little kits containing every single thing I needed for each episode, along with a master list of which items in each episode kit was to be moved to a different episode kit when each episode was finished. Did that make sense the way I said it? Here is a shot of some of my kits lined up in the order they were to be used. (no, we did not shoot chronologically, which complicated things even further)

After being worked on for an hour by the makeup artist and spackled, scrubbed, powdered and primped, I was ready to step in front of the camera for the first episode. Take a deep breath, calm your nerves, try to remember your lines, and let's do this!

Filming took the better part of three very long days and, though tiring, was a total blast. Everyone was super professional and there to do the job and do it right which made it a joy for me. I LOVE working with people who share my work ethic! We all worked our tails off all day long, stayed on task, and when it was done, we all had smiles from ear to ear. What a great team!

Because I was waiting for my class to launch, I have only shared glimpses of what the final QOV quilt looks like. Are you ready to see a shot of the quilting? Here you go! Reminder; the quilt still needs to have the last row of quilting finished and needs to have piping and binding added. When this is done, I will take a better photo of it and post it so you can see how it looks with a shot of bright red piping, but in the meantime, here's the quilt as it looks so far.

And here is a close up

If you want to learn how to do these designs, here's a link to my Craftsy class. Click here to go directly to the class page at Craftsy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sneaky Peek!

Here's a sneak peek of the back of the Mystery Quilt of Valor that Alycia Carmin is presenting in conjunction with my Templates class on Craftsy.com I can't show you the front quite yet because the Mystery is not complete and the final reveal has not yet been made. Patience, my friends, is a virtue. :)

While this may look super complex, IT IS SO EASY!!!!!!! I used a couple of templates (1 straight, 3 circles and 2 melons), some super simple markings (and I do mean super simple!), and filled everything in with very easy medium/small scale stippling and some pebbles. This is a quilt that any confident beginner could do.

Don't believe me? Take the class and I'll show you. We launch in a little over a month!

Monday, September 10, 2012


My apologies to those who were trying to access the tutorials on Practicing and Backing in the Pages toolbar just below my title bar above. I messed up the code on those pages while creating them so they either showed as gibberish or, depending on your computer, as being nonexistent. D'oh!

They're fixed now. Sorry!