Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Create What You Love

I am wondering how many of you create what you love instead of creating what is popular at the moment? I recently joined this Quilting Board website, and I see many quilts that are clearly the creation of the quilter, instead of what the market currently has to offer.  Its refreshing to see so many sewers out there creating quilts that reflect their own style and fabric choices, instead of quilts that are found in magazine and website advertisements.  In particular was a very beautiful hankie quilt. 
The maker had used her mothers vintage handkerchiefs that her sister had given to her with stunning results.

How many of you are using 'found' objects to create your quilts?  Do you make Art Quilts?  How many of you are trying to use up your stash to create quilts, instead of buying new fabrics to create them?  Do you mix and match your existing fabrics with new to finish those quilts you are working on recently?  Do you make quilts just for yourself, or only for others? 

How many of you make quilts specifically for others?  For example, if your granddaughter wanted a unicorn quilt, would you search for unicorn fabric and patterns to use , or would you get truly creative and find a unicorn image somewhere and go from there?  I'm happy that most of the kids in my family are grown, so they get adult quilts now instead of ones with children themes.  I am not a fan of making novelty or children's quilts with a specific theme anymore.  Its not to say that I don't appreciate them, its just a matter of wish to pursue my sewing efforts in things that I want to make at this point in my life.  I have made plenty of them over the last 30 years.  In fact, baby quilts are how I got into quilting more than 35 years ago.

When you go to a quilt show, do you look at each and every quilt hanging in the show and study it closely to try and figure out how the quilter constructed it, what inspired them to create it?  Or do you sometimes find yourself only gravitating towards certain types of quilts to look closer upon and maybe photograph so you can remember the quilt later?   I like to read about the quilt either on the card that hangs on the quilt or in the program if available to try and understand the story behind each work of art.

I remember the first time I took my hubby to a quilt show, we found what I now know to be a 'modern quilt' hanging up.  It was not an attractive quilt, it looked more like a moving blanket and something that had not been made with much skill involved.  He asked me to take a picture of him standing next to it so that he could show it to his construction buddies at work and claim it as his own work because they had teased him about attending a quilt show.  This particular quilt didn't hang straight and I noted this to him.  Now whenever I make a quilt and show it to him, he comments on whether or not it hangs straight and if the corners edges are perfectly square!  :-)

At that same show, we there was a display of antique quilts in a special exhibit.  As we walked through with the hubbies, they showed particular interest in one quilt that Mike proclaimed looked like a toilet bowl rug.  It was kinda U-shaped and upon closer examination, sure enough it looked like one of those little rugs you would put at the base of the ceramic throne.  To this day, I often wonder what may have inspired the quilt maker all those years ago to make such an oddly shaped quilt.  Perhaps its was used as an article of clothing or on furniture and certainly not as we had envisioned it!

I'd love to hear from you what types of quilts you enjoy making most of all and why.  Comments and feedback encouraged.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Social Media and Celebration Notations

Over the last 2-3 years I have noticed a trend that many people are using Facebook to send celebratory greetings to one another instead of mailing a card via the postal service.  While I completely understand this practice and use it myself to those that I do not have a mailing address for in my address book, it makes me wonder several things.

1)  Could this trend be contributing in part to the budgetary issues the USPS is having, because we no longer buy stamps and mail cards?   I know I buy the stamps, those forever ones in bunches so they get my money whether or not I mail anything out.  I know in my heart, however, that I do not buy as many stamps as I did 5 years ago because I pay my bills online every month instead of writing checks and mailing them.   I also get a lot more of my statements electronically, so this again means less for USPS to handle every day. 

2)  What are people doing with all the extra time they have on their hands because they aren't selecting cards, writing them out and mailing them to individuals?  Its much faster to post a note online to someones FB account that to drive to store, find the perfect card, take it home, address and stamp it and put it in the mailbox, isn't it  Perhaps this leaves them more time to play computer games.  I tend to buy cards well in advance of the event, and I personally enjoy reading the cards in the store and the time spent selecting just the right one.  There is nothing better than giving or receiving a card from a loved one that is so appropriate for the occasion.  I am grateful that my siblings and I still do this with each other for birthday and certain holidays.  My parents, specifically  my dear dad, make their cards on the computer themselves and send those.  Its always fun to see what he comes up with to send.  I know he takes great pride in these creations.  This year, for my birthday they enclosed a baby picture of me that I had never seen.  Its looks to be a christening photo because of the way I am dressed.  The note scrawled on the back in my mother's familiar handwriting reads "guess who this is?"  I love that my parents have stayed true to form for over 50+ years.

3)  Does the impact of receiving a message on Facebook make one feel different than getting hard copy mail?  I believe it does in two ways.  First of all, I receive more Birthday greetings from people I haven't seen in years than I would through the post office. So there is an impact in the volume department based on the number of happy birthday greetings received online.  Secondly, I like seeing how people write funny and inspirational messages on my Facebook page to inspire me to have a good birthday.  Its easier for me to read and re-read these lovely notes and messages from friends and family than to open up a bunch of cards and pull the cards out and read them. My parents always include a check in my birthday greeting card, something that can't easily be done online by folks that don't trust putting their information out there on cyber space.  Its not the gift that is important to me.  Its the idea that they are in their 80s now and they are still here with us and able to remember that its my birthday.  I know I am one lucky gal to be able to say that to everyone.  Many of my friends do not have their parents around anymore and I am sure they wish they did, especially on birthdays and holidays and at special celebratory times.

I'd like to close with a suggestion.  Rather than just send a BD greeting on FB to a friend on their birthday, why don't you also pick up the phone and give them a quick call, let them hear your voice?  I think that is something that most people would enjoy even more than a FB message.  I did this yesterday with a girlfriend whose birthday is easy to remember because its the day before mine.  She was glad to talk to me and I know it meant a lot that I took the time out of my day to ring her up and let her know that I was thinking about her, yesterday and every day since she lost her husband a couple of months back.  I knew in my heart that her first BD without him was going to be hard.  I wanted to make sure that she was doing okay and to let her talk if she wanted to about how she is doing.  When you have a good friend, you don't always have to talk with them often, but you should reach out to them when its important and sometimes when its not to just let them know you are there for them if they need you.    With unlimited calling these days, why don't we do this more often? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

National Quilting Day 2013

So, how did you spend National Quilting Day 2013?  It typically falls on the middle Saturday in March.  That was this past weekend.  It was quilting, friendship, birthdays and St. Patrick's Day all wrapped up into two days.

I, for one, was lucky enough to have had my best friend over for a visit.  We ran the roads, we ate, we laughed, we did show and tell and dodged snowflakes.  Martha is such a cool pal.  She's easy going with a wicked sense of humor and my little JRT LOVES her!  Olive can't get enough of her 'Aunty M". 

My friend brought her most recently completed quilt.  Its a fabulous piece, colorful yo-yos sewn down onto a deep aqua green Bali background.  The yo-yos remind her of barnacles she told me.  To me they looked like the most colorful and wonderful sea anemones I've ever seen.  Something that you would expect to see on Jacques Cousteau Undersea World or the Discovery Channel.  The quilting was simply, stitch in the ditch, but that is all this quilt really needed.  Two plus years of work and the binding is almost done!  She should be very proud of it! 

We went to one of our most favorite NJ Quilt shop, Olde City Quilts in Burlington, NJ.  We stopped there first so they could look at my Bernina 380 which was having a tension issue.  We shopped while they helped customers, as the snow was falling quite hard outside.  I picked out 14 fat quarters in various shades of green, almost every one they had in the shop that day.  I also purchased several yards of solid fabrics to be used to complete my modern quilt in progress.  Everyone joked that I must be making a St. Patrick's Day quilt because of all the green I purchased.  I also bought backing for the green quilt, wide enough so it doesn't need to be pieced.  We were happy because they offer a birthday month special.  You get a discount percentage off one item equal to your age.  Plus you also get one yard of any given fabric for 20% off.  I got a ton of goods for a very good deal.  AND, they were able to find the problem with my machine and fix it on the spot. It turns out that it was a small piece of thread that was caught in the tension clip on the bobbin.  Thank you to the ladies at OCQ for getting me sewing again on my new favorite machine. 

Martha purchased loads of goodies at OCQ as well.  I think she got enough to make two kids quilts.  One was a  block of the month kit, the other was a pattern that she hand selected fabrics for herself and with the help of the ladies in the shop.  It was fun and we had a good birthday retail therapy event that morning. 

As we ventured onto the next stop, the snow was really coming down hard and coating everything.  We decided to stop at a yarn shop in Mt. Holly that we have driven by several times in the past on the way to our next quilt shop stop.  Wool Bearers is the name of the shop.  While I am not into knitting or crocheting, I can tell you that this shop is spectacular.  They had so many beautiful skeins of every type of wool in a rainbow of colors and blends.  They offer both knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving lessons and the samples hanging around the shop were a real treat to drool over.  Martha even found a pair of Cinderella Clogs.  They are clear, so the hand knit socks you wear with them can be seen on your feet.  Pretty cool huh?  I'd never seen anything like them.  I was moseying around the shop and found some spectacular shawl pins that I really loved.  I pointed them out to my friend and she had to pick one for herself.

After we left the yarn shop, we headed over to one of the most unique quilt shops in NJ, called the Village Quilter, also in Mt. Holly.  We had found this shop via the 2012 NJ Shop Hop.  Its a cute little place, where the quilts and fabrics are different than what is offered in many other shops.  We love the variety of what they stock and they are also so helpful and friendly.  They happened to be having a 20% off sale of all Jelly Rolls and strip bundles.  Plus they offer a Birthday month discount as well, so we were able to get a nice discount at the shop on our purchases.

Martha decided that she wanted this cute Cabana beach themed quilt. She picked out all beachy fabrics, including a great grey and white starfish print and some with red steamed crabs on it.  One of the prints has little clams on it with eyeballs peaking out from the open clams.  When Mike saw it he thought they were aliens.  They also had this brand new fabric line that we both liked, and we each bought a jelly roll of it.  I also picked up some yardage to use with it, 2 solid grey colors, and 1 orange that were also in this architectural printed fabrics plus one print that looks alot like pencil scratching on a pad.  Martha bought some of the other prints as yardage to make a quilt for her son.
I also found a bright batik jelly roll that just seemed to have my name on it.

After they cut and packaged up our goods, and calculated the total cost, minus discount, we were on our way to lunch. We asked the ladies at VQ if there was a nice place to eat nearby.  We ended up going to the Robin's Nest to eat, within walking distance of the quilt shop.  It was delicious and we decided it was the perfect end to a nice National Quilting Day 2013.   As we walked in the snow to the Robin's Nest, we passed the Crow Bar.  Turns out this little place is a historic building and used to be the jail house.  We paused long enough so I could snap a picture of my BFF to share.

I can only hope that all of you that read my blog had as much fun as we did this past weekend to celebrate your National Quilting Day.  We had the added bonus of celebrating our birthdays which are coming up this week!

My weekend ended perfectly on Sunday evening on a very high note.  After enjoying some delectable homemade Corned Beef sandwiches, a long nap with the doggies, watching my beautiful niece on ESPN3 score a 9.825 on her floor routine,  and sewing on my green quilt to my hearts content, I logged onto Facebook to discover that I was the lucky winner of a batch of Cherrywood fabrics given away by the Bad Ass Quilter's Society.  My #8 entry on Mattie's web page helped me to win this lovely gift by a very special lady.   It can't get any better than this.

Hanging by a thread--Diane

Friday, March 15, 2013

Baskets and Quilts

This past weekend started to look a lot like springtime.  The snow we got on Friday melted quickly on Saturday and the sun shined most of the day.  The temperatures were warmer than they've been and the dogs loved being able to go outside as they pleased because I  was able to leave the doggie door open for them. 

Last week, I had ordered a few yards of solid green fabrics, all different colors with the intent of diving into the Modern Quilt making.  Saturday morning and early afternoon was spent making 3 large baskets from a new type of rope that I had not used before.  Its a soft nylon or poly rope that is brightly colored and has two other colors woven into it at regular intervals.  Its a much heavier rope than I use to make my clothesline baskets covered with fabric, but I thought, wouldn't it be fun to try and use this to make baskets quickly that are waterproof and washable?  Yes, it turns out to be pretty easy to shape into baskets and I love the results.  I will post pictures to this post as soon as I take them so you can see what I created.  I also spent several hours piecing together 48 count of 2.5" wide strips for an upcoming jelly roll race in April.  It took longer than I remember, but its done and I'm ready to win the race.

Mid afternoon, Mike brought in a package that had arrived at the front door.  My new fabric was in the house!  He rolled his eyes and said, "What are you planning on doing with that?  Just what you need, more fabric!"  I told him not to worry, I was going to use it pretty quickly and he would see the results.  I doubt he believed me at that point.

Needless to say, I figured out what I wanted to do with the new pieces, and I cut them up for piecing on Saturday night.  The quilt top was about 25% done before I went to bed at midnight.  I was really excited about finishing this new modern quilt design.  On Sunday morning, coffee in hand and freshly showed and dressed, I sat down and finished the generous queen sized quilt.  It was done by lunch time.  All these beautiful shades of green, from the lightest, dewy palest green to kelly, jade and ivy darks were pieced carefully into a really huge top.  I showed Mike what I made and his comment was "Oh, its an Irish Quilt!"  I have to confess, it does look rather Emerald Islandy.  I measured it and trimmed it up to be closer to a queen size quilt.  I have to add a little width to it yet to make it larger so the people who will end up with will be able to use it to sleep under in their new place.  Ssssshhhh, they don't know about it so don't tell.  I've already decided how I am going to quilt it.  Once its done, I will post a pictures for you here.

Well, its mid March already and St. Patrick's day is around the corner.   I am looking forward to it this year because it falls on a weekend. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

How Does Nature Inspire You to Create?

Today is another one of those WFH (working from home) days because it is snowing pretty steady out and the roads are messy and slippery.  I am lucky enough to have the type of job where I can work from home and still get paid to do my job.

Today's snowstorm is cold, white, fluffy and beautiful because I am not driving in it.  While I own a AWD vehicle, its not my own driving that do not trust, its those other NJ/NY drivers that I don't wish to meet as close encounter on my bumper on the highways.  So I stay home and work from my kitchen table or basement office doing tasks that I am able to complete without issue and by myself.  I enjoy working from home from time to time, I get more done than in the office because I eliminate all 'walk up business' from my office colleagues.  The only walk up business here are my dogs coming in to check on me and see if I have any snacks for them or to get a little attention.

As I work, I look out the window next to my workspace and enjoy watching the white stuff pile up on the fence, bushes, trees, and even this little stake in the yard that marks my oil tank port.  I am amazed that this little, tiny,  not quite horizontal surface allows the snow to pile up on top of it.  The top of the stick actually has a little 2" x 3" plastic dragonfly on it. Nature fills in the spaces with softness and beauty all on its own.  In a harsh world, its little miracles like this that keep me inspired.

What if each of us could fill those voids and spaces with our own softness and fluffy beauty?   We could easily isolate ourselves against the storm outside.  Wouldn't it be better to insulate ourselves and the ones we love?  Quilts blanket, cover, protect, support, cushion, and wrap themselves around us with the love we used to create them. Regardless of the type of quilts you create, I am sure that you make them to the best of your ability and if you are lucky enough to design them as you go, you can carefully plan and create your quilt with a specific recipient in mind. Most of the time, I do not make quilts with an end purpose, other than to create a work of art, I see something I love and decide to make it my own in cloth.  Other times, I have to make a gift for someone, knowing there are rules or needs to be filled (color, size, date).  Either way, whoever ends up with my quilt in the end, will hopefully cherish it, use it, enjoy the spirit with which it was created and know that there are little bits of me sewn into the finished quilt that they now own. 

Like the snow on the stick pictured in my yard above, some quilts are only with me for a short time, until I can get them done and they go on to their owners.  They melt into my past and disappear making room for me to move onto the next project.  Others stay and are proudly displayed from time to time, and some never seem to get done and pile up as UFOs in my stash of maybe some day I'll quilt and finish it pile.  When I am in a 'finishing mood' I will pull one or two of these out and get them done.  Snowy weekends are great for when I have those moods.  I think the weekend that starts at 5 p.m. today is going to be one of those "GET 'ER DONE" weekends. Last time it snowed, I quilted and bound this one below....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Modern Quilting Transition

As you probably know, I joined a local Modern Quilt Guild a few months back.  I had dropped out of my traditional local guild a few years ago because I lost interest in the traditional ways of making quilts and frankly all of the politics associated with being a very active member of a guild for a long time.  I really did not miss the duties associated with the old guild.  I just wanted to get together with people that I share an interest with and have some fun and inspire one another.  The Modern Quilt Guild of Northern NJ fits that need perfectly.  Once a month meetings at a nice shop in Montclair, and there you have it. 

After joining the guild, I decided that I needed to better understand what a Modern Quilt is all about.
I purchased some books on Modern Quilting and have been reading them and enjoying looking at the quilts and projects shown in those pages.  I am still a hard copy book reader (maybe not so modern) and I think its because I enjoy the feel of paper in my hands and the look of the diagrams and pictures on the pages.  I also believe my lack of interest in e-books, stems from the fact that I spent most of my work day on the computer.  This is not something I want to do when I get home!  Regardless, I read most of the books within a week of receiving them and decided I would set out to make a series of  'modern' quilts based on what I have learned. 

I also went to my favorite pattern website to look and see what type of modern pantograph quilting patterns I could find to purchase.  I spent a good 30-40 minutes browsing their offerings and selected 10 new patterns to add to my quilting pattern library.  I ordered them and they arrived yesterday.  I was thrilled to see they came so quickly and was pleased with the selection when I opened the box.  Being a long arm quilter, I felt it was time to update my inventory of patterns to support my quest to create some modern style quilts. 

I also learned that modern quilts make use of the negative spaces in the overall quilt design.  This aspect got me very excited because the negative spaces are perfect for me to showcase my exquisite quilting skills that typically are not used in more traditional quilts.  Negative space allows me to truly create and develop my quilting style using custom stitching.  Those solid sections of fabric that support the framework of the quilt design become a canvas for the quilter to upload with her own fantasies.   I do have alot of solid fabrics which I have collected over the years, but not loads of it in my stash.  I saw awhile back, these Jelly Rolls of solid whites, greys, creams and blacks and didn't understand why anyone would want to buy a whole set of those pre-cut strips in solid fabrics of the same hue and value.  Now, I GET IT!  Those are used to create the negative spaces in the piecing designs of a modern quilt and DING!  the light bulb came on over my head. 

One additional point I read in many of these new modern quilting books is that alot of modern quilts do not have borders on them.  The designs run right to the edge of the quilt and even in many cases, off the end of the quilt, creating movement.  I've always been a big borders and sashings gal.  To make quilts without borders, well I am going to have to do this and see how I like it.  I have made  a few quilts over the years that had minimal or partial borders.  Those were done to satisfy my asymmetrical personality.  Now that I am not longer boxed in by traditional borders, I happily begin my quest to complete a series of  modern quilts and will post some pictures soon once I have made a few of them for you to enjoy.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?   

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jelly Rolls - Sweet Strips of Happiness

I just returned from the NJ Quilt Festival in Somerset, NJ.  Jelly rolls were everywhere.  Almost every vendor booth had some type of Jelly Rolls to sell, big rolls, little rolls, medium rolls.  I think they have become almost as common as the fat quarters.

Do you use Jelly Rolls or Strip Sets in your quilt making?  Do you enjoy piecing them together and then cutting them apart and sewing them into block for finished quilt?  Do you find them convenient since they are pre-cut?  Do you cut your own?

I personally love Jelly Rolls.  I started out buying my first one years back, which I have actually never used and it sits in my sewing studio, still rolled up with the Moda ribbon holding it intact.
I quickly graduated to Bali Pops, another form of strip sets, that are packaged flat instead of rolled into a coil.  I very much enjoy making things with Bali pops and have had quite good luck teaching a "Stripper's Club" series of quilting classes locally.  I also find myself cutting up the leftovers from my quilts, the borders and other pieces like backs and edges into 2.5" wide strips to be used in my quilts.
I have always enjoyed piecing more than applique and I believe that Jelly Rolls offer a wide variety of choices to the piece makers of the quilting world.  I think the accuracy and convenience of having the colors, fabrics and cutting done for you, also adds to their appeal.

I did not understand until just last week, why anyone would want a Jelly Roll of all white, or all off white or black strips.  However, after purchasing and reading through some new books on Modern Quilts, the light bulb inside my head came on and I realized that these strips sets are designed with the Modern Quilt Guild quilters in mind.  Many of the modern quilts use negative space in their clean designs and those spaces are often white, off-white, creams, greys or blacks.  I had my AH HA! moment and realized I needed to get a few of these monochromatic Jelly Rolls to make a few of the modern quilts I have on my wish list.  So I looked for them at the show, and was disappointed to find only one vendor with two sets of them, but not in the colors I needed!

I have even been lucky to find cheap jelly rolls at some discount stores recently.  I buy them when I see them and make charity quilts for fun.  The fabrics in these discount store JRs are not what I would typically buy to make quilts for myself, but they are bright, cheery and work well in twin sized quilts that will end up brightening up some one's day for awhile.  At  $7 a pop, why not?  Recently, I admit I venturing into the big national chain fabric store, looking for jewelry findings and non-quilting items.  I walked by one of their wall displays and found jelly rolls, marked clearance for $.97.  What?  Less than $1, I grabbed all of them.  Clearly they were mis-marked, but they gave them to me at that price and I felt like I had hit the lottery!  Actually, I left one there for someone else to find and get for 97 cents...no need to not share the bargain find with the next lucky customer, right?

I do not use my Accuquilt to cut strips.  I have found that I am able to cut my strips out quicker and more accurately, using my rotary cutter, ruler and mat myself.  I know that many people have purchased their Accu quilt system for this very reason.  I often will substitute or add in additional strips cut from my stash to a quilt top I am constructing from pre-cut strip sets.  I have seen some of my students do this as well.  Do you substitute or add fabrics of your choice to your Jelly Rolls or not?  I think this allows you to make your quilt unique. 

And I can't close this blog today without mentioning Jelly Roll Races...Do you participate in Jelly Roll Races?  Do you know what these are?  You take the Jelly rolls and sew them end to end into one long contiguous strip.  You have the option to sew them straight end to end, add 2.5" squares of other fabric in between the strips, or piece them together on the diagonal at the ends so there are angles in the rows where the strips meet.  I personally enjoy adding the little squares in between, it gives the quilt a random touch of color and makes the jelly roll quilt different than the other two versions.
We have done these twice now, getting a group of gals together and racing to see who can complete the quilt top in the shortest amount of time possible.  You take the contiguous strips, sew the ends together until you've sewn the entire length, cut and repeat until you have a nice sized quilt top at the end.  You can finish it without borders, add borders if you wish and layer it, quilt it and you are done.
The race is to see who can complete their top from the sewn together strips first.  First place is another Jelly roll awarded to the winner!

These JRR quilt tops are also good for charity.  They can be embellished with applique, cut up and repieced into other shapes and they are fun to do in a group.  We even had remote participants that called when they started and called when they stopped, sending over a picture to the shop when they completed their tops to ensure no one cheated.  Everyone enjoyed it and the results were pretty fabulous because every one's quilt turned out different.