Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Excellent Adventure At Linda Taylor's House

Sorry for all of the peace and quiet around here this week, but I got home from my trip and was immediately attacked by life. After spending the past few weeks frantically prepping for filming and ignoring everything else, I had a little catching up to do. I can now see the floor that was previously hidden under Mount Laundry Pile, there is food in the fridge, and the house is (sort of) clean again. Yay.

Last Sunday, I flew into Jackson Hole WY and was picked up by two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet, Carole and John Smith. Longtime residents of Jackson (Carole's been there her whole life and John's been there since he was a teen) they were in town for a historical society fundraiser and volunteered to pick me up while they were there. They took me out for a drive, showed me around town, and invited me to attend the fundraiser with them. What a treat! Excellent food, a great bluegrass band, a very cool display featuring three of the birds from the Tetons Raptor Center and excellent and interesting company, all in the gorgeous setting provided by one of Jackson Hole's historical farm sites. Oh, yeah. Surrounded by the Tetons. Let's not forget that part. I thought my eyes were going to pop right out of my head from looking at so much beauty.

After we were done gorging ourselves on BBQ, stories of Jackson's early days, and great scenery we headed to Linda's, which is a little way out of town. The drive is incredible. Buffalo wandering around singly and in herds, antelope all over the place, lovely green valleys with rushing rivers, and mountains still topped with snow. Will someone please remind me why I live in Farmington?

Linda's got a great place. She and Rick built it themselves and you can tell that they paid attention to every single detail. Her kitchen is to die for. She's got the best looking granite countertops I've ever seen. Just standing in that kitchen makes you want to start baking something immediately. Making Christmas cookies in that kitchen would be the Best Thing Ever, and I'm not even that much of a baker!

The views from the house are just incredible. If I lived in that house, the only time I'd ever get anything done is when it's too dark to see. And even then I wouldn't get much done, because when it's dark you can go stand on the deck, look up and see a million stars twinkling in a black velvet sky. What a great house and what a great setting.

Shooting my episodes was a snap. Linda, Rick and Todd are so totally on top of the whole filming thing. They get everything set up for you, taking care of every last little detail, and spend the whole day making sure you look good. We shot four episodes and an interview, all of which will be available for viewing on Season 4 of Linda's Longarm Quilting Show on her web site There will be more than 50 new episodes this season and I'm not sure yet when mine will air, as they are all in the editing process. She's got some really great guests, including the amazing Sue McCarty, Judy Woodworth, Sue Patten and more. The 'big guns' of quilting are really coming out of the woodwork for this season!

The highlight of my visit was an after-dinner ride in Linda's RZR. We followed a track up the mountain, four wheeled through meadows, had a deer jump across the track right in front of us, whizzed down roads past grazing horses, and generally had a great time. At the end of our adventure, I had to get out and take a pic, because I knew nobody would believe me when I said I went four wheeling up a mountainside with Linda V Taylor.

On Tuesday morning, Carole and John picked me up for the return trip to the airport. The trip back was even more beautiful than the trip from the airport, with a clear blue sky and miles of visibility. I was very sad to be leaving such a lovely place and such lovely friends. Linda Taylor is an extraordinarily nice woman who lives in a place that fits her to a T and I feel greatly honored to have been able to spend time with her away from the hustle and bustle of quilt shows.

As I walked out the door of her house, she gave me one of the nicest compliments I have ever received in my entire life; "If you lived closer, I think we'd be best friends." Linda, I sure do wish I lived closer.

PS My outgoing flight was delayed by 45 minutes and, tragically enough, I was forced to sit and look at this while waiting. Poor, poor me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Design Work Is Done. Let's Quilt.

After much fiddling and fussing, I finally arrived at a good starting point. The Stars and Moons quilting idea was salvaged after all. Yay! There will be Mariner's Compass stars in all four corners and along all four sides. The 5 large pink moons in the middle of the quilt will have these same stars, and I'm hoping that all of the little moons will have them, too. We'll have to see about that when I get that far in my design work. I still have no clue what I'll do in the backgrounds, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here's my final rough draft in chalk.

Once the rough draft was all tweaked and twisted, it was time to chalk out the design. While this might seem like a lot of work, I find that when doing a more intricate design or a design that relies on accurate measurements to get things to turn out the way I want (like this design, for instance) it's a lot less work to chalk it out than it is to try to stitch it out and then have to rip when things don't line up properly. In cases like this, I'll always take the time to draw out the things that need to line up, then all I have to do is stitch on the lines and I can rest assured that I won't have to do any retroactive quilting because something turned out wonky.

My rough draft chalkwork is done with a Chacoliner, because it's easier to brush away when the line is wrong or the design turns out to be stupid. Trust me, a lot of designs turn out to be stupid, and I do a LOT of brushing away. When I'm ready to do my final chalking, I switch to my mechanical chalk pencils. These have a very compact chalk lead, which leaves a very thin and precise chalk line. A thick line tells you approximately where to stitch. A thin line tells you exactly where to stitch. I want to know exactly where to stitch, thus the mechanical pencil.

Now that the chalking is done, it's time to get busy and do some stitching. I love this part.

A closeup of the 'ghost' circles I'm using in the corners and along the sides. These circles are being stitched with Mariner's Compass stars surrounded by double spined curvy diamonds and are filled in with microstippling to make the stars pop. The thread used is black YLI Fine Metallic, which is my all time favorite metallic thread. I'm still not sure what will go in those areas outside of the curvy diamonds. I've got enough curved crosshatching and *way* enough microstippling, so it won't be either of those things, but what will it be?

A closeup shot of the crosshatched area. I love what that thread is doing on the black. What a great pop of color! This is YLI variegated machine quilting thread in Maui Sunset. The curving line is the same thread in Mediterranean. There will be filler work done on the other side of the curving line but I haven't yet decided what that filler will look like. All I know is that it will be done in the Meditteranean thread, as it flawlessly matches all of the blue batiks used in the quilt.

Here's a full length shot of the completed area. Sorry it's not a better photo, but I was teetering on top of a folding chair trying to focus the camera, it's very late and I am a total wreck from burning the midnight oil all week trying to prep for filming. I promise I'll get some better shots next week when I'm back home and the pressure is off.

DO you like it so far? Click on the pic if you want a closer look.

I'll be back from filming the middle of next week and, if I remember to pack my camera, I'll show you some pics of what it's like to film TV episodes. Then it'll be back to work on this quilt! Woohoo! More quilting!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Design Work; Rough Draft

As soon as I drew this basic layout last night, I knew it was 'it.' I love the way the circles extend out into the borders, completing the circles begun in the blocks. I love the way the curvy line moves through the border, drawing the eye along with it. I love the way the design frames the quilt and I love how the whole thing just flows together as if it were all planned as a single unit. Like I said, this is so totally 'it.' Now all I have to do is fill in the blank parts and figure out which thread goes where.

I plan to do a lot of thread work and significantly alter the look of the plain black fabric in the border, but I do want some of the fabric to 'pop' and will use the negative space technique to accomplish this. By running a 1/2 inch wide double spine along that curvy line, the black border fabric will have a chance to show off and when drawing it out today I decided to add little curvy points outside of each circle, to add interest and variation to that double spine. Because I still have not given up entirely on the Moons and Stars quilting idea, I tried drawing Mariners Compass type stars in each circle shape and found that they look pretty good, so I framed them with curvy double spined diamonds that help to fill the space. They'll be stitched out in black Fine Metallic. I still don't know how I'll fill in the background area of those circles, but I find that this sort of problem usually solves itself once I start stitching.

The curved crosshatching will be stitched in pink/orange/gold Maui Sunset variegated thread, to play up the pink fabrics used in the top and right now I'm thinking that in the as yet to be designed outer border area, I'll sprinkle some little round moon shapes that are filled with stars. The rest of that area will be filled with some sort of a filler yet to be determined. All of this will be stitched in the blue/purple/turquoise Mediterranean variegated thread, except for the little round moons, which will (probably) be black metallic.

A lot of thinking and planning got done today, but not much drawing, as I spent the day running necessary errands. Tomorrow I'm going to be up and at 'em early, so hopefully a lot of work will get done. It better, as I have to leave for filming on Sunday morning and this quilt is coming with me!

Here's the rough draft. It should give you a good idea of what the finished border will look like. As always, click to enlarge if you'd like a better view.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Design Work; First Draft

My big idea was to quilt interlocking circles and melons in the border, filling the secondary shapes with stars. (since the name of the quilt is Drunkard's Moon, what better way to quilt it than with stars, right?)

Step One is to stitch in the ditch the seamline connecting the border to the body of the quilt. Since that little line of piping is so bright that it will stick out like a sore thumb if it's wavy, it's imperative that I straighten it out and nail it down before I do any other quilting.

Next, I'll lay out the 'bones' of the design. Using various sizes of circles, I'm chalking in the shapes. There's no math involved; I'm just plunking down circles to find what fits, then chalking around the shape with a little lipstick shaped Chacoliner tool. Next, I'm filling in between the circles with melons, chalking them as I go.

Since I don't have a template that's the correct size for this circle, I've had to make a little compass out of my chalk pencil. This was easily accomplished by sticking a pin in the center of the circle and tying a piece of thread between the pin and the pencil. Using this makeshift compass, I can now draw out a circle that perfectly fits the block. Easy peasy pie.

This isn't working. Because the size of the circles vary depending on their placement, the secondary shapes they form when they're combined with the interlocking melons are not consistent. This is a big fly in the ointment which did not show up on paper. Curses! Time for a new plan.

Moving to the other end of the border, I changed the circles to ovals to get a deeper curve to see if that made things better, and started filling in some of the secondary shapes with stars. This idea looked great on paper, but on the quilt? Not so much. Just goes to show you that the best design work is done directly on the fabric as you just can't get all of the details of the quilt down on paper no matter how hard you try. Time to dump this plan and start a new one.

The chalked design lines have been removed and I am back to the drawing board. I really like the way these circles flow out of the corners, completing the circular block. To me, this is a pleasing base for my design work and I'm going to elaborate on it and see where it goes.

After deciding that I needed to walk away from the quilt for the night before it becomes a source of frustration (when working out the details of a design, I try never to get to the point where I become frustrated and begin to hate the quilt), I went to my computer and started drawing with my graphics tablet to see if I could get anywhere. Why didn't I do this first?!? By drawing, I was able to find a good idea that flows nicely and now I have something to sleep on. Yay.

The Cast Of Characters

The piecing is finished and the fun part is about to begin! Woohoo!

The quilt is a Drunkard's Path variation based on a quilt I saw on Ballarat Patchwork's blog in 2008. I cut the blocks using my Accuquilt Go! cutter (love it!) and it went together perfectly. The batik fabrics are absolutely to die for and are all from Sew Batik They're the softest, most workable batiks I've ever used and are not at all stiff and cardboardy like so many batiks out there. Try them. You'll never want to use anything else.

When adding the border, I felt that the blocks flowed into the border too much and there needed to be something to stop the quilt. A stop border was just too much 'stop', so I made some teeny tiny handmade piping out of leftover pink batiks and then went back and ladder stitched it with Turquoise YLI Fine Metallic thread to tie together the pinks and blues, add a little pop of color, and add a crisp delineation between the quilt's interior and it's border. Depending on how I end up quilting the border, I may r may not add another line of piping between the border and binding, only that piping will be made from leftover blues and will be ladder stitched with pink. Maybe.

Tools to get this quilt started (more will be added later, I'm sure); Three circle templates in various sizes. Six Melon templates in various sizes. Carol Selepec's Multipurpose Ruler for measuring smaller areas. A large Fiskars rotary cutting ruler for measuring larger areas. A norebook filled with design ideas that I drew out while driving up with Mr. Kimmy to our son's college town to help him clean his apartment in preparation for moving to Animal House, oh excuse me, I meant The Lake House. (did you know that college age boys apparently do not clean their apartments? Like, ever? Wow. Gross.) A seam gauge to help with accurate marking of double spine lines. A Fons and Porter mechanical chalk pencil (I would surely perish without this tool). YLI thread as follows; Variegated Machine Quilting thread in Mediterranean and Maui Sunset. Fine Metallic in Black, Carnation, and Turquoise. Iris in black, hot pink and bright blue. Variations in Caribe.

And most importantly, I have George and Brad. Where would I be without them? They are so helpful. Also, they are not bad looking, if you happen to go for the extraordinarily handsome and charming type. When I'm pinning on a new quilt I like to have Ocean's 11 running in the background because the music is so fabulous and the dialogue is so fast paced and witty. Not because of the extraordinarily handsome and charming men. It's all about the music and dialogue. Yeah, that's it. Music and dialogue. Ahem.

I'm off to get the quilt loaded and tomorrow will have pics of the beginning stages of the design layout process. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Almost Done!

Sample #1 is almost done. Yay! This sample will be used in two of the four episodes I'll be filming with Linda Taylor next week. Episode #1 will feature template work and episode #2 will be on using thread color to change the look of a quilt. Episodes 3 and 4 will be on feathers (surprise!) and I'm going to work on that sample today.

The border is almost finished on three sides, leaving the top border unfinished so I can work on that on camera to show you how I do the layout, how I fill the area, etc. The point of this quilt is to show the confident beginner quilter that creating good design is NOT the big deal you'd think it would be. All it takes is some imagination, some patience, and a willingness to experiment a little and maybe break some rules. As you can see by looking at the photo below, there are only three design elements in this border and all three are very simple.


1. A curving double line created by using melon templates as a stitching guide to assure nicely shaped corners, even width and smooth curves. The negative space within the curving line provides a crisp design element and a sharp delineation between the piano keys and the pebbling. Easy!

2. Piano keys stitched at 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch widths with little curvy bumps used to travel between the lines and avoid having to backtrack. The spacing between the lines was fudged ever so slightly here and there to make the lines fit in the space. Easy!

3. Freehand pebbling done in a slightly contrasting thread to alter the color of the border fabric and make it ever so slightly pinker. Easy!

No brain cells were killed in the execution of this border, as no math was used. I hate math. I am not one bit sorry that I wrote Math Sucks in that book. I only use math when I can't figure out a way to weasel out of it. When laying out this design, I just fudged everything to fit, which is way easier than using a calculator and trying to get everything to fit. Easy!

Threads used in the border are YLI Variegated Machine Quilting Thread in 'California Poppies' So Fine thread in color #500 and YLI Iris thread in 'Grape.' If you haven't tried Iris yet, you should. What a *great* thread! Beautiful sheen, very forgiving, runs like a champ. What more can you ask for from a thread?

This little quilt has been a lot of fun to work on and I taught myself a lot as I worked through it.

PS As you can see, not all of the blocks are completely quilted. This is so that I can demonstrate on camera the various stages of the quilting process.(Stage 1 chalk guidelines, Stage 2, do this, Stage 3 do that, etc.) Also, there will probably be more quilting in the piano key border, but I haven't had enough coffee yet to figure out what it will look like.

Click on photo to enlarge if you'd like to get a better view.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Changing Your Quilt With Thread Color

As I mentioned in a previous post, later this month I'll be filming some segments of a Linda Taylor's Longarm Quilting Show. I've been working on a large quilt to use as a show sample but of course I need some small samples as well and today I'm working on one of them. In the segment that this sample is for I'll discuss using thread color to alter the look of your quilt.

Let's say you've got a quilt that didn't quite turn out the way you'd hoped it would. The fabric color is not quite right and the quilt just isn't singing to you. You're bummed out and thinking that maybe this quilt is going to spend some quality time shoved in a drawer. But wait! Don't despair! Instead of banishing your quilt to the back of the closet, why not try grabbing some thread and seeing if you can mix things up a little bit?

In the case of this quilt, I used a couple of great orange batiks for the simple star blocks, some bright turquoise for the sashing strips, and a deep purple for the backgrounds and the border. The trouble is, the simple star blocks were awfully...well...simple. The sashing strips are bright but boring, and the deep dark purple is too deep and dark. What seemed like a great idea just wasn't.

Enter the thread. YLI 'Iris' is a fantastic 100% poly that runs like a champ in my machine and on this quilt I'm using a gorgeous purple and a bright hot pink. YLI Fine Metallic is the best metallic out there. It's smooth and soft and doesn't twist, break, or pitch fits and the bright Turquoise I'm using looks great every time I use it. I've grabbed some templates to help me lay out my design; two small circles, a melon template, and my favorite straight ruler. Now let's see if I can fix this quilt.

In order to make sure that my designs are placed just the way I want, I premark carefully using a thin chalk pencil. It doesn't take much marking to get everything right, but you do have to be careful and consistent in your measuring and marking, or the design will vary from block to block and you won't be very happy about it.

And here is the finished result. The block is enhanced, but not overpowered by the thread. The purple background fabric that was just a wee bit too blue has been changed by the orchid thread to a better color, and the pink thread brightens and highlights the orange fabrics and makes them really sing against the dark purple. The blue metallic adds just the right pop of color and ties the sashing strips nicely to the blocks.

Click on the photo to see an enlarged version, as this small photo really doesn't show much detail.

Just wait until you see what I'm going to do to that boring purple border!

I think that this sample is going to work just fine for my segment. Woohoo!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Acupuncture Up Close

A reader asked if I'd post a detail shot showing how I pin a curved block. No problem! Here ya go :)

As you can see, I pack those pins in there pretty tightly but, as I said in yesterday's post, if you want super smooth curves you just can't beat pinning. I first divide my curve into quarters (or eighths, depending on the size of the block) and mark the quarters with pins. I then match my centers and pin them together, then match the beginning and end of the stitching line and pin, then match the quarters and pin. Next, I carefully match the sections in between the pins together, making sure the edges of my fabric are aligned, and pin. Yes, I know, it's a lot of pins but the results are worth it.

When stitching, I do not remove the pins as I go but instead I leave them in place as I feel that it gives the fabric more stability and prevents any shifting of the layers. I stitch slowly and try not to crash and I make sure that the pins I use have round heads so they'll roll out of the way when the needle gets close. I do not *ever* use flat head pins when doing this, as they won't roll and will make it more likely that I'll whack a pin with my needle.

Let me know if you have more questions!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Acupuncture For Fabric

I am having a blast this week. All of my work is done for the time being, I don't have any magazine deadlines for an entire month (yay!) and I don't have any quilt shows for two months. (more yay!) However, I do have to go shoot some episodes of Linda Taylor's Longarm Quilting Show out in Jackson Hole WY later this month, and that means I'm going to need a new quilt. Woohoo!

Since two of my episodes will focus on using templates while quilting, I wanted to make a template-friendly quilt and decided to go with a Drunkard's Path variation. I know, you're all thinking "Oh, scary! Curvy blocks!" but really, they're not a big deal if you know what to do. With curvy blocks, there are really only 2 big rules, and I'll tell you about both of them.

The quilt will be made from gorgeous mouthwatering batiks from Sew Batik I LOVE THEIR FABRICS!!! They are batiks, but they aren't the stiff gross kind of batik that feels more like modified cardboard than fabric. They are soft, drapeable, beautifully handcrafted fabrics that stitch up beautifully. I really enjoy working with them a lot. The black fabric is a hand-dyed fabric, also from Sew Batik, called Tuxedo. It's a fabulous black. Deep, rich, solid black that makes those bright batiks go pop! I'll quilt the quilt with a selection of YLI threads and will tell you specifically what I use when it comes time to quilt.

If it looks like I'm performing acupuncture on my fabric, it's because I sort of am. When making blocks with curved seams, like these Drunkard's Path blocks, it's crucial that you pin. A lot. I mean really a lot. You're dealing with fabric cut on the bias, which stretches. You're trying to ease in fullness, which stretches. You're trying to go around curves, which stretches. If you want to achieve smooth curves without any herky-jerky angularity, you have to pin because, IMO, it's the only way to deal with all of that stretching and still get a precise finish. Yes, I know that there are presser feet for my machine that will help me stitch curves faster, and yes, I have one of those feet, but I don't use it because I get better results with pinning. Pinning is not thrilling, but nothing beats the results. I grab all of my blocks, curl up on the couch with a big pincushion full of super-thin pins, plug in a movie and sit and pin. It's relaxing, it's entertaining, and I end up with very accurately pieced quilts, so I'm happy.

If pinning is #1 on the list of Important Rules For Blocks With Curves, proper pressing is definitely #2. You want to take your time, use some sort of a pressing surface that has straight lines that can be used to keep the lines of your blocks straight (I am using a June Taylor pressing board meant for heirloom sewers), use a good hot iron that will give you a crisp press and above all DON'T STRETCH ANYTHING! You want to press straight down and straight back up, not scrub with the iron as if you were cleaning the kitchen floor.

To keep myself from getting bored and racing through the pressing, I like to watch movies. As I was taking this picture, I was watching A Few Good Men and it was the part where Jack Nicholson was on the witness stand.

"You can't HANDLE the seam allowances!"

I just love that movie.

And here's what the finished block looks like! I'll need 16 of these blocks, 16 blocks with a black circle surrounded by batiks, 4 large pink/orange/gold batik circles surrounded by black and 1 large black circle surrounded by pink/orange/gold batiks. Does anyone want to guess what the finished quilt will look like?