Saturday, June 23, 2007

Spring Migration won Viewer's Choice at LSQG

Spring Migration was voted Viewer's Choice at The Lakeside Quilt Guild Meeting this week. (Read about the making of it ...) This really surprised me!

Everyone who participated in the Challenge brought their creation to the meeting. We laid them out and members voted on the one they liked best. There were many nice entries. The possibilities seemed endless!
* Someone made a little stuffed bear with a beaded necklace.
* Someone else unraveled the gold braid and used it for a Honey Bee Fairy's golden tresses.
* Another person incorporated fabric folding / origami as a bouquet of flowers
* Other people did traditional pieced blocks with additions like chopsticks (Cool, Carol K!)

I wish I could remember more of the entries to tell you about them ...

The point of the project was for the participants to challenge themselves, and work with some techniques and ingredients they probably were not used to working with (tulle, beads, eyelash lace, gold braid). It was a great project to challenge us to work "outside the block."

Nice job, everyone!

Fabric Post Cards

Last month at Conversations in Cloth, we worked on Fabric Postcards. I finally finished mine.

The turtle pattern/idea is from a recent issue of Quilter's Newsletter, though not for postcards.

This last postcard uses the cut-out curls from the other turtle shells. You can use all your scraps this way! Makes a nice bouquet, doesn't it?

These will be mailed out soon. I just need to show them to CinC members.

Personal Notes on Fabric Post Cards :
I was really looking forward to learning how to make these because I thought the small format would be great for trying a variety of new techniques and color combinations without being bogged down in finishing a huge project like a bed-size quilt. What I found out was that the 4 in x 6 in size was just a little too small for me (See how the turtle feet hang over the sides).

The other great thing about these will be sending them to people. What a surprise it will be for the recipients in the mailbox!

On time management : Working on these post cards takes time away from my other projects. I didn't want to work on them on Sunday (my one day reserved for sewing). I think if I continue, I might have to schedule 1 night a week to work on postcards or journal quilts, the experimental stuff ...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fiber : Part 2

This is Maggie, the 2nd-hand dog I fostered last summer (and subsequently fell in love with and later officially adopted). We think Maggie is a full-blooded Newfie who was "working" in a local puppy mill.

Here's my soapbox : Puppy mills are evil and run by unscrupulous breeders who have no regard for the health or well-being of the dogs in their care. It's all about money and how much they can get out of these dogs (Don't think there's money to be made? A single Newfie pup can go for $1200, or more).

We (us, the vets, and the humane society) figure Maggie was about 5 years old last summer. A city dog who had never learned to walk on a leash or been house-broken, she was terrified of absolutely everything and everyone. Puppy mill dogs are typically kenneled all the time, and not socialized or given new experiences as a pet dog would be. She was interested in other dogs, but was afraid of people ... She couldn't even raise her tail because she didn't have the muscle tone to do so (How pitiful is that?). Her coat and tail were thin and scraggly. She was also painfully shy and depressed last summer, just wanted to melt away and disappear into the ground--and recovering from the stress and malnutrition of yet another litter of puppies. Have you ever seen an 80-pound dog who didn't know what to do with a pig ear or a hot dog? That was Maggie last summer ... Maggie has made a remarkable recovery, a true testament to the resilience of her spirit as a dog. Maggie is wonderful! I can't believe no one bothered to find that out before us.

This spring, Maggie's coat was so lush and full, we actually had to take her to a dog groomer. And I still have to brush her at least once a week. Her fur is so SOFT! It is a luxery to be able to come home from work and pet this lush dog! I'm saving her fur for projects--needle felting, or spinning, or something else ...
Yes, Maggie is almost a normal dog now, thanks in part to her gentle nature, my family's patience in helping her come into her own, and in part to Purty, our other overly confident pup :

Purty helped Maggie learn to play and enjoy life. They are best buddies now.

Soapbox : Don't bother with breeders and purebreds. There are so many dogs who need homes as it is. Visit your local animal shelter first. They've got just the pet for you--burebreds included. If you must opt for a purebred, make sure the breeder has morals, genuinely cares for the dogs in his care, and is NOT running a puppy mill.

I never thought I'd have a Newfie of my own ... The sad thing is, I know that when Maggie is gone, there will be another puppy-mill survivor to rehabilitate ... So much for the casualties of a market economy.

Fiber : Part 1

Last April, we were in Madison, WI, visiting some of our old haunts. Some friends were going to an Alpaca convention that day. We decided to tag along ...

Before I left Madison, almost 10 years ago, I took spinning lessons at The Weaving Worksop and bought a spinning wheel from Susan's Fiber Shop. I used to spin a lot--it helped unwind after a long day at work using my brain power. Then I had a kid who was a little too interested in the mechanisms of the spinning wheel -- and I discovered quilting!

My Spinning Wheel : A Louet S-90, a wonderful and portable wheel! I understand it's "out-of'-print" now. The yarn on it now is from a roving I bought from Rainbow Fleece Farm in New Glarus, WI. Patty Reedy is a fiber artist who decided the only way to get the fiber she was looking for was to go into raising sheep herself. The wool of her sheep has a wonderful luster--it actually sparkles! Too bad you can't see that in this picture ...

I am still very interested in fibers and spinning and now, needle felting.

One of the vendors had a lovely array of blended and dyed fibers (not necessarily Alpaca). I couldn't resist! Here's what I bought from Huacaya Moon :

Blue Green

Northern Lights


I'm thinking these will make wonderful northern lights one way or another. I still have to experiment and work out just how I want to accomplish that ...

At the Alpaca Conference, vendors brought spinning wheels and looms, too. I'd love to get a loom, but I don't have the space. They were also selling simple hand looms that could sit on a tabletop. Heck--you could make one yourself.

So what do I do with the yarn that I spin? Nothing yet. I'm not much of a knitter, though I used to crochet. My Gramma Pickles has several knitting machines, though. One day, I'll hand my yarn off to her for transformation into a sweater ...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Spring Migration : Lakeside Quilt Guild 2007 Challenge

No theme this year, other than trying to get participants to think outside the box and try new things. Here is the contents of the bag of STUFF we had to incorporate into the 2007 challenge piece :

It contained :
1 fat quarter
Eyelash yarn
Sparkle Gold Braid
Tulle (bridal netting)

Here's the sketch I started with in my notebook (from the Original Sweet Leaf Notebook) :

Notes on the construction :
With Challenge pieces, I like to challenge myself to try new techniques. In this case, I wanted to try 1) drafting a soaring trail of flying geese 2) paper-piecing 3) using crayons to add color 4) echo quilting.

For a while now, I've had a book called Stellar Journeys that explains how to make these soaring flying geese patterns. I knew it would involve paper piecing, so I've been putting it off. My first attempt at paper piecing in 2004 made me abandon it : 4 hours for a 4-in block did not seem like time well-spent! However, I do understand that for some applications, paper-piecing is the only way to get clean, sharp points ... It definitely has its uses!

This is the flying geese trail I drafted on freezer paper. Here it is overlayed on my background with the tree to make sure everything was sized properly.

Here is the original pattern with the paper-pieced strip. The last 6 lavendar triangles at the tippy top are fused on. They just got to be too small to manage at that size.

All this time, I thought this style of soaring Flying Geese was unusual. Unique. Last week, I discovered Caryl Bryer Fallert's website--she's got these flying geese trails all over her work! She also has course material to explain how to do it as well. I did not discover The Bryer Patch until after I had most of this piece done ... It's always fun to see new examples, though!

Batting : medium polyester batt, left over from another project. I like the quilting to show ...

The first wall hanging I ever did used Warm 'N Natural, because that's what everyone then said I should use ... I absolutely hated that batting. It was FLAT FLAT FLAT. Lifeless. What's the point of quilting it if there's no puff whatsoever? My Unca Ray says sleeping under a quilt made with Warm n Natural batting is like sleeping under a rug--it's kind of stiff. He's not a big fan of it either. Last month, Harriet Hargrave spoke at The Darting Needles Quilt Guild in Appleton. Her talk was on batting (of all things--it's a lot more interesting than you would ever imagine!). She said that Warm n Natural started out as winter window-coverings. It hangs well, doesn't distort, and is thin ... It has its merits, but I still don't like it. My favorite all-purpose batting is Hobbs 80/20, though I didn't use it here ...

Quilting : Echo Quilting fills in the open spaces. I used an invisible polyester thread on top (another new thing for me). I'm really happy with the way that turned out. You can see the quilting, not the threads. In the bobbin, I used a cream-colored Bottom Line from Superior Threads.

Back of quilt to show quilting.

The pattern for the tree comes from a recent issue of Quilter's Newsletter. Their "Gathered Yo-yo Flowers Tree" pattern recommended making the tree blossoms out of yo-yos. Again, I'm not much for handwork, so I opted for pulling the ready-made silk flowers off a fake rhododendron (a thrift store find). Then I added some color with regular crayons. Pink, orange, and purple reflected the colors in the rest of the piece. The flowers are sewn on with sequins and beads.

Detail of flowers and geese.

Size : I started with a fat quarter from my stash for the background. Instead of agonizing over the Golden Mean, and what size should I make it, the fat-1/4 size really simplified matters.

I started with the fat-1/4 for the front and did the fusible applique and embroidery.
I used the given fat quarter as part of the hilly landscape. Then I added the backing and batting for quilting.

Other Elements : The Sun was drawn freehand. It's not a blazing, hot summer sun because it's supposed to invoke spring. I cut up the gold braid and captured it under the tulle, then added the remaining long gold beads on top. I know, it could use a few more in the corner, but I only had a handful in the challenge kit ... The eyelash yarn got couched up the spine of the flying geese. I guess I was thinking it kind of reminded me of feathers ... I'm not sure it works there, but I had to include it somewhere in the piece.

I'm not sure I like it yet, but it's growing on me ... It always takes a while to get used to a new creation.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ode to My Sewing Machines

Vicki Welch at Field Trips in Fiber recently did an Ode to her Sewing Machines and asked the rest of us to also post such an Ode, so here it goes ...

Great Gramma had an old treadle Singer Sewing Machine in a beautiful wooden table (not quite the one pictured above). It was in the house for a while--My mom had a thing for antiques, but the old farm house was perpetually under some remodeling project or another, and it eventually moved out. For years, the old Singer gathered dust in the granery on the old farm. As kids, my brother and I played around it, working the treadle, watching the gears turn, the magic of the machine rising out of the table ... After many years, my dad tore down the machine shed, and the old Singer disappeared. I would love to have that old machine now!

My first sewing machine was a Singer Genie, handed down to me by a teenage Aunt who never took well to sewing.

I was in first grade (I think). I remember being in 4-H, going to Mrs. Borneman's house for sewing lessons. I was working on a little orange sun dress with a yellow jacket. I finished it well enough to wear it to school once or twice. I remember I did a lot of seam ripping on that project! It was hard to sew a straight line in those early days! I think this machine was handed down to my younger cousin Ashleigh, and moved to Idaho ... This was the starter sewing machine in our family.

Later, Gramma Pickles bought me a White, because I "needed something dependable" when I started a small dress-making business.

The first week I had it, I broke something while winding a bobbin. When I took it in to be fixed, Hans (of Hans Sewing Center in Madison, WI) told me in a thick accent, "I've never seen a machine so cheaply put together!" Apparently, all the parts are plastic inside ... To his credit, he didn't try to sell me an expensive Bernina then. So I made a few more dresses on it (including 5 wedding dresses, got through graduate school, and got a real job. When I could afford it, I traded the White in for a workhorse of a machine with all metal parts :

Riccar 1570

This Riccar is a good, solid machine. I made several medieval SCA dresses and my sister's wedding dress on it. I also learned to quilt on this machine--including free motion quilting and embroidery. It's still the machine I take to sewing classes because it's is so darn dependable!

In 2003, my Mom and Aunt Rosita discovered quilting due in part to the excellent quilt shop in Antigo, WI : The Cutting Edge Quilt Shop is owned by Marla Arndt, a Viking dealer. My mom and Rosita both bought one (and then a few more ...) At one point, they told me, "Marla has just the machine for you : a used Viking Rose. It's got lots of stitches and embroidery machine capabilities." Embroidery was important to them, not me. I had learned free-motion embroidery and quilting on the no-frills Riccar. Why did I need some expensive machine?

But the spell of all those fancy stitches got to me -- I wanted to do some crazy quilting (and not by hand!) I finally bought the used Viking Rose :

It is now my primary sewing machine. I've been very happy with it. Though in the beginning, I remember being very frustrated with it. I lived too far from the shop to get the New Owner Lessons, so most of my learning was trial and error on my own. Now we have a pretty good relationship. I know it well enough to make it do what I need it to do ...

Last year, my mom upgraded to a Designer SE, the current top-of-the-line machine from Viking. Since she would only get $1000 on the trade-in for her Designer I, she offered me a deal I couldn't refuse. I now own a used Viking Husqvarna Designer I. I haven't taken it out of the case yet ... I'm going to a quilt retreat this fall. That might be a good time to get used to using it--Ma, Rosita, and Marla will be there to help me with any problems in getting to know it.

My husband laughs and says these fancy machines are so smart that we only need to turn it on, throw the material into the room with it and shut the door. In a few hours, the quilt is finished with no other intervention from us. Well--it's not quite that easy ...

In March, I won a new Viking Platinum 715 at the FVTC Sewing Expo :

So far I've been to Sew 'N Sew in Appleton for 1 round of lessons. I plan to finish the lessons this summer to get more familiar with Vikings in general, then I'll give it to my mom for Christmas. She's been saying she wants a 2nd machine to do straight piecing and quilting while the fancy machine is set up with embroidery.

I would like to have a 2nd machine set up for free-motion with the fabric mover. Now I just need a larger space. My sewing room at present is so packed with STUFF, there really is no place to go ... Ah, someday ...

New Gadget : Quilt Block Design Mirrors

I discovered this nifty gadget this week. I've been using it to decide if a particular focus fabric will yield suitable kaliedescope or 4-patch posies. It has proven to be a valuable tool before I make a purchase on questionable fabrics.

Try this :
1. Go to your favorite online fabric seller, or a local fabric shop.
(I like Elkabee's Fabric Paradise because they have a great selection, large swatches, and an indication if inches to size the motif in question.)
2) Print out a swatch or two you think will work :

Tossed Fruit Punch on Black by Hoffman courtesy of Elkabee's

3) On paper, you can use the mirrors to test your inclinations.

I am looking for a fabric that will yield kaliedescopes that will look like fruit pies.
Do you think this one will work?

I'm almost ready to put in an order ... What to use for a background, though?

I probably would not have purchased it on my own. It was in the prize basket of sewing notions I won in March.

Make Your Own : Katy from Conversations-in-Cloth suggested making your own with mirrored tile (try Home Depot or Lowes) and duct tape. What a great idea! It's a remarkably simple tool.