Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quilt Retreats

I had the good fortune to be able to participate in a quilting retreat in NJ over the weekend. I believe there were about 23-24 of us there and everyone was lovely. I really enjoyed the energy in the main sewing area. Sometimes it was buzzing, loud and full of laughter and the sound of whirring sewing machines or the blast of the occasional steam iron. Other times it got very quiet when people were working as individuals and concentrating on their projects.

The retreat center was beautiful. The light filled room was huge, and we had plenty of room to work, visit, chat and sew. The one side of the main room was all windows, making the daylight delightful. Even at night the lighting was more than adequate.

Note the beautiful quilted panels on the wall in the second photo. They represent Earth, Wind and Fire...
Perfect inspiration for a group of quilters.

I've been to many retreats over the years and I found that this past weekend was truly the nicest whole package retreat. The sleeping accomodations were more than adequate, with twin beds, a shared bath with nice shower, plenty of hot water and thick, thirsty, soft towels. The rooms were spotlessly clean and well appointed.

I liked that the sink was outside the bath, so it was easily accessible and great for sharing. And each room had its own temperature control for heat and air/fan. No vent wars!

There were alot of bonuses at this place we stayed, including big decks, no stairs, a great kitchen area, a gas fireplace, and two other smaller conference rooms that we were able to use whenever we wanted to. One was turned into a cutting and ironing room and it had a large screen TV that allowed us to watch movies on DVD.

The main room had a beautiful galley kitchen for our use during our stay. They provided coffees, tea, dishwasher, fridge, microwave and there was plenty of counterspace for us to share goodies to eat.

We had pizza and salad the first evening after everyone had arrived. The other meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were served family style in the dining hall. The dining hall is a real old fashioned log cabin that is literally a stone's throw walk away from the center where we stayed. There was always salad and plenty of choices for food, drink and sides. The staff was friendly, and they really did make some delicious food. At breakfast we had eggs, hash browns, toast, cereal, yogurt, fruit, cottage cheese, bacon or sausages, milk, coffee, tea, etc. They even were willing to accommodate special request from the guests, such as vegan or veggie sausages if you don't eat meat or pork. Lunches ranged from soup, sandwiches, chips, salad and drinks to baked chicken, veggies, rice, potatoes...choices too numerous for me to remember. Dinner was meatloaf. veggies, potatoes and it was plentiful and really tasty. No dishes and platters of cookies to enjoy at night. I was very happy with the food and I didn't hear any complaints from anyone that they didn't like it.

We quilted, we sewed, we shared, we laughed. Some slept, some napped, some read, some knitted or crocheted. I was even able to watch the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Conference Championships on my ipad because of the free wireless connections in the center. I think a few of the ladies may have stayed up all night and I know that a lot of sewing got done and there were some absolutely beautiful projects that were completed or almost completed.

I left on Sunday afternoon, thinking how lucky I was to be able to go, to now have a bunch of new quilting friends and to have learned and shared so much. Aleeda Crawley planned this terrific weekend and she did an amazing job ensuring that even the small things were taken care of so that everyone could relax and truly enjoy themselves. Thank you Aleeda and to the rest of the retreaters, can't wait to do it again soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tri-Lobal Grey Matter - 52 week challenge Quilt # 9

I am a proud member of the North Jersey Modern Quilt Guild. I am trying my hand at making more 'modern' themed quilts these days. I love the color grey and I think this may be due to the fact that my hair is getting more and more grey as time passes. I like the grey and white colors on my head and decided that I needed to make a modern quilt using alot of Moda grey solid fabric.

I had seen a stack of strip quilts at a NJ Quilt shop called the "Village Quilter" located in Mount Holly. The quilt was hanging in the window and featured long bright strips of fabric sewn horizontally into a basically solid white background. I stared at it for a very long time, but neglected to take a photo of it. It was however, burned into my grey matter.

I love bali prints and I collect them and bali pops and strip sets. I decided one snowy day to piece these with Moda Grey. Rather than do one stack, I opted for three stacks randomly spread across the quilt. I used 25 bali and batik prints in bright colors and randomly pieced them with the moda grey strips.

I added a wider negative space border on all sides and quilted it with a pantograph called "Daisy Doodle" designed by Apricot Moon. I used a grey thread to quilt it and used up some large pieces of map fabrics in grey and blue on the back that I had aging in my stash.

I also like that I had a smaller piece of leftover binding that contains many of the colors in the quilt that I was able to use to finish this quilt. Truth be told, I needed to make more of this binding, but was lucky enough to have some more of the fabric in my stash to get it big enough to finish the quilt.

This quilt marks the 9th of 52 quilt finishes in my 52 Quilt Challenge for 2014. I'm a little behind but hope to catch up later this month and in April. Its been a very busy couple of weeks for me with customer quilts, quilt shows and road trips.

Crop Circles, #8 in the 52 Week Challenge

Awhile back not too long ago, I decided I wanted to try and make an 'almost wholecloth quilt' that would allow me to showcase my longarming skills. I took a light colored printed fabric and added some raw edge button-hole applique circles to sections of the background fabric.

Then I pieced them together into a quilt top to finished later with quilting and binding. You may remember my original blog on this piece if you follow me.

Well, I finally got around to quilting this quilt.

I spent two days, just quilting, no specific patterns decided ahead of time. I basically let the quilt quilt itself. It contains free form feathers, flowers, circles, lines, coffee beans, swirls, grids, cross hatching, a chess board, pebbles, McTavishing, broken glass, flames and many other design elements. Each of the applique circles are also quilted in a variety of patterns.

When it came to binding, I had a piece of leftover binding from a quilt I had made for Lane years ago. It was a bali print with dogs and rainbow colors which amazingly matched the appliqued circles. It was plenty long enough to bind the quilt, so I used it and am pleased with the result. Even the back of the quilt is amazing to look at. I still can't believe I did this all free motion. Truly an original design which I have decided to call "Crop Circles".

I decided it was worthy of showing publically, so I will be putting this one into the upcoming Warwick Show in May. This quilt is also #8 in my 52 Weeks Quilt Challenge.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Modern stripy quilt -W I P

I am always looking for strip quilt patterns to inspire me to make new quilts for mu stripper's club quilt series.
I was trolling the bargain bin at a wonderful quilt shop in Burlington, NJ, Olde City quilts! when I cam across a pattern called Effervesence from Marlous designs. It was a bargain at under $5 and looked like something that might work up nicely with my own modern twist.

I have been an avid collector of many things quilty over the years, including various strip sets, jelly rolls and Bali pops. while I didn't initially know which would go into this project, once I had the pattern open! I quickly chose two jelly rolls that I had on hand that contained various turquoise, lime green, Olive green, brown and other color prints in them. I added to this a jelly roll which I had founded in the big J store in the bargain bin for $2.99 that contained earthy prints of greens, browns, printed with bark and leaf motifs.

I decided that the quilt should be bed sized at minimum and much to my delight, realized that the three jelly rolls I had selected actually had the exact number of strips I needed to create a twin size bed quilt.

I created the strata and blocks and then set out to make the circular bubbles using freezer paper applique. The pattern said to use two contrasting colors for the bubbles, but I felt that more colors were needed in a variety of sizes and textures. I ended up going over to rock! paper! scissors in Montclair to pick up a few solid colors to use for the accents. this was a very wise decision as I had few solids in my stash that would have worked well. and I would be supporting my local quilt shop! I picked out 7 different solids or semi-solids in various shades of green, yellow, gold, turquoise to use as the accents. I had plenty of browns in my stash already.

I spent one afternoon cutting out the circles using my accuquilt and circular dies. I cut many different sizes from freezer paper. These were then ironed onto the accent fabrics, then cut out, leaving a quarter inch or less seam allowance around each circle. Then I got out my trusty washable glue sticks and glue board and set out to prep the circles for applique. I took them with me to Raleigh, NC and worked on them while I had down time in the plane or hotel.

Once I had most of the circles glue based, I used my favorite invisible machine applique stitch to apply them to the vertical strips in each block. It was fun sorting through the circles, deciding which ones should go where and them sewing around them to applique them to the quilt blocks. Once I had some of them completed, I used my applique scissors to clip the back of the appliqued areas away, exposing the freezer paper so I could remove it. I then took a spray bottle with water and doused the backside of each circle with the water to loosen up the freezer paper. I work in sequence, trim, wet, trim, wet, repeat. Once the blocks were all trimmed, then I started with the first one and removed the paper. If you wet the paper enough and let it soak in for 5 minutes or so, it should loosen up enough to make it easy to remove. A gentle tug is all that is typically needed to get rid of it. Sometimes I had to reset the piece again to completely remove the paper. Once the papers are removed from the circles, then I steam pressed the entire block and put it on the stack to be pieced into rows.

Being that I am dabbling in the modern quilt world now, I wanted this strippy quilt to be more modern and bigger than twin sized. So I decided that I would search for more of those jelly rolls and buy them IF I found them. Earlier this week, I went to visit my parents in Virginia and stopped at the source of the strips. Low and behold, they had them. I picked up more bundles to enlarge the quilt. I was happy to have been lucky enough to find them again.

I showed the quilt to my lovely sister Peggy and asked her opinion on modernizing it. I explained that I wanted to add alot of negative space in either a light turquoise or light olive colored solid. We decided that it would look great to add a chunk of solid at both the left side and top, then a row of piecing and more solid to finish it off, giving it a very asymmetrical look and feel. I think I have settled on the idea of piecing one section with the same 2.5" strips and another with the 'bubbles'.

You'll have to stay tuned to see how it turns out.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Challenge BLocks

I have been quilting so many years that I find my self avoiding most challenge projects, especially blocks from guilds. I did so many of these years ago and I learned a great number of quilting skills via the block of the month and challenge projects.

However, in 2014 I decided that there is still room for me to learn new things and thought that participating in the NJMQG block challenge would be a good thing. I initially made one set of paper pieced alphabet blocks (NNJMQG) that ended up being 12.5 x 19" in size. I wasn't crazy about how difficult the letters were to read, but I turned in it anyway. Then I came across another paper pieced alphabet and decided it would be worth it to try again. I really like the outcome of this one better.

It will be fun to see what comes of the different blocks that are being created by the group and the resulting quilt project using the challenge blocks. The challenge was to use 3 of the 4 available solid colors and Kona pure white to create a block that was 12" finished in size on one side. The block was supposed to represent what "MODERN QUILTING" means to me. I hope the guild will like my contribution.