Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of 2013 Quilting

2013 has flown by but left behind many fond quilting memories and accomplishments:
Home Sweet Home
  • Quilt Studio Makeover which involved a major purge of ugly fabrics, duplicate tools, IKEA shopping trip and a coat of bright teal paint.  I love my new space!!!
  • The new studio layout and purging some ugly fabrics freed up some space for some fun new fabric and thread purchases.  Fabric and thread therapy shopping is always provides great stress relief and leaves me with an enhanced stash of beautiful and magical fabrics.  
  • Through continued quilt education, I added some fun and new techniques and tricks:    3-D quilting from Susan Else; Free Form Circles thanks to a Quilting 101 demo; Fusing Fun with Frieda Anderson and Marjan Kluepfel; English Paper Piecing thanks to my favorite LQS, Art Quilting, Yarn Couching and Bobbin Work thanks to Wendy Butler Berns, Feathered Fun with Kathy McNeil; and Free Motion Quilting!!!   
  • I am now addicted to Craftsy classes!  I was skeptical at first about online learning, but I just love the Craftsy platform complete with top-notch instructors, great demonstrations and projects and the interactive Craftsy community.  And with my crazy work schedule, I can log on at my convenience.  I completed a total of 12 Craftsy classes this year and have many more queued up for 2014! 
  • Unfortunately my work schedule has limited my involvement with BAMQG and CQFA, but I  was able to increase my involvement with SCVQA:  Quilt Show Layout/Set Up/Take Down, Historian, Membership Committee, Nominations Committee, Q101 Demos/Sew Days and other guild projects.  I especially love my front row-center seat at meetings where I can soak up all the beauty and detail from our members' quilts and those from our visiting artists!!
I Love Art Quilting and Working Small!
  • I dabbled in Art Quilting and thanks to Wendy Butler Berns, my new mantra is to work small!  Working on smaller projects allows me to add more intricate details/embellishments while keeping up my momentum before they can turn into a UFO!  I also enjoyed working on series which afforded me the opportunity to experiment with various aspects of design:  fabric, layout, quilting and embellishments!     
  • Two awesome quilt shows:  SCVQA and PIQF.  So many gorgeous quilts to view and provide inspiration, workshops/demos and of course shopping!
  • Finding lots of great inspiration and ideas via Pinterest, and losing hours as I went from board to board looking at so many beautiful quilts.

It's hard to believe but 2013 marked my 10 year anniversary since starting quilting.  There's been so much growth, progression and evolution in my quilting skills and aesthetic!  In just one decade, so many quilts have been created, gifted and brought warmth and joy to loved ones.  

Wishing you all a very Quilty New Year!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 New Years Resolution Review #5: Embracing Free Motion Quilting!

Free motion quilting (FMQ) has intimidated me for several years now so I was a little nervous whether I would gain the skills or confidence to embrace FMQ.  For the first few months, I gathered and borrowed several books on FMQing.  They each included photos and diagrams of different beautiful FMQing motifs, but they all contained the same message:  Lots of practice is required to become proficient at FMQing.   So much for my wishful thinking that I could master FMQ by simply reading a few books on the topic.  
Beginning FMQ Sandwich

When more than half the year had passed and I still had not sat down to do any FMQing, it was time for some motivation so I decided to enroll in a Beginning FMQ workshop in July at my favorite LQS.  Armed with fun fabric sandwiches, threads and my sewing machine, I was ready to finally put the pedal to the metal.  Above is my practice sandwich with the various exercises to help us warm up and experiment.  I had so much fun doodling away that I was eager to try at home on the Bernina with BSR...but ran into some technical issues which derailed me slightly.  

Practice Quilt Sandwiches Turned into Placemats

Once my Bernina returned home in working mode, I resumed my FMQ practice starting with Leah Day's FMQing a Sampler Quilt via Craftsy.  I was afraid to apply the new motifs to an actual quilt so I stuck with more sandwiches, which I liked so much I bound them to use as place mats.

I experienced such great success via Craftsy that I enrolled in several more classes focused on FMQ:
  • Machine Quilting with Angela Walters
  • Dot to Dot Quilting with Angela Walters-finished class project
  • Free Motion Quilting with Features with Angela Walters
  • Machine Quilting the Home Sweet Home Quilt with Frieda Anderson-finished class project
  • Design It, Quilt It with Cindy Needham
  • Machine Free Motion Quilting and More with Wendy Butler Berns
FMQed Border

As I worked through each class, my FMQing skills definitely improved as did my confidence.  I took a leap of faith and decided to apply my new skills to an actual quilt. I first tried some FMQ in the borders in Whimsical Whirligigs and ended up doing more detailed quilting than originally planned.  Then I tried FMQing several small Art Quilts working up to larger quilts.

With each new class and project, I challenged myself to expand my repertoire of FMQ motifs.  I started a small journal where I drafted out each of the motifs demonstrated in the classes to help me develop muscle memory, work out the flow and create a library of motifs to have as a reference with future quilt projects.  I also expanded my collection of quality threads to include more and more colors of Aurofil, Superior and other fun threads to add color and texture to my quilts.  

FMQ with Bobbin Work
While at PIQF, I took a full day workshop entitled Butterflies in Free Motion with Marjan Kluepfel where the 2nd half of the day was dedicated to FMQing including bobbin work, which allowed me to incorporate thicker and/or metallic threads into my projects.

I am really pleased at my progress these past few months.  No longer do I dread the quilting phase of my projects.  So not only did I embrace FMQing, I actually enjoy the challenge of incorporating fun FMQ motifs that accentuate the piecing of the quilt top.  Many of my fellow guild members have praised me on the projects I bring for Show and Tell which is a huge confidence booster.  And I absolutely love the look and feel of my finished quilts--they are just so much fun to touch and feel!  

And while you can't touch these photos, here are some of my fully FMQed projects from 2013:

And while these quilts are all fairly small, I did make the jump to a full sized quilts--actually two of them which are both 50% completely quilted using a combination of techniques learned in the many workshops/classes from the year.  This is the new year's resolution of which I am most proud in my progress.  And it is one that I hope to continue and expand upon into 2014 and beyond!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 New Years Resolution Review #4: Tackle my growing pile of UFOs

The new year began with a whopping total of 19 WIPs/UFOs and another pile of 20 dream projects that were still at the idea phase and/or collection of fabric.  Having so many projects was simply overwhelming for me and I was desperate to whittle this pile down to a more manageable and enjoyable caseload.  So I set out the new year to tackle this pile of projects and that was in part by working on many of the projects already started as well as trying to limit the number of new projects I begin.

So how did I do on my list of UFOs/WIPs?!?  Here is the same mosaic that started with 2013:
Tracking Progress on the UFOs/WIPs from the Start of 2013
  • The red check marks are finishes--for a total of 7 (I hadn't included the photo of the Oh My Stars Challenge that was completed early January):  Fluttering and Voluptuous Vortex; Koi Fish One Block Wonder; McCalls Mystery Quilt Challenge; Black and White Slashed Quilt (which was started 4 or 5 years ago--so one of my oldest UFOs); Butterfly One Block Wonder and Run for Color.  
  • The yellow Ps are projects where I made progress but unable to complete (top left to right).  
    • The Dresden Quilt has since been redesigned, reassembled, borders added and is layered and ready for quilting
    • Twister quilt squares are now sewn into rows that need to be assembled before twisting
    • Rainbow Vs quilt top now has a variety of fabrics purchased to audition for borders 
    • Black Opals & Ribbon Candy (broken dishes block) had so many assembled HSTs that I had enough for 2 quilt tops!  So I went to work finalizing the sashing fabrics with a warm version and a cool version, added borders, layered and more than halfway FMQed.  I was really hoping I would be able to finish both before the new year but I am stuck on how to FMQ the center hour glass shapes and borders.  So hopefully these won't be on my UFO list for much longer!
  • The grey ?s are 3 projects that I am still deciding whether to even pursue as I am no longer in love with these projects, hate the fabrics and/or have little interest in completing.  I just need to lose the guilt and decide whether to donate them as they are to Philanthropy or finish them and then donate them to Philanthropy?!?
  • That leaves 4 more projects that sat in my studio untouched this year:  
    • Dixie self portrait was tucked away in a drawer as it was simply too painful for me to work on after we lost her in early January
    • Kool Kaleidoscope quilt is layered and queued up for quilting
    • Bella Roma paper pieced quilt is just so intricate and I have set it aside until I have the FMQ skills to do it justice
    • Crazy quilt is also tucked away as it is just lower on my priority list.
Finishing up old UFOs is only half the equation.  I also had to either resist new project temptations (ha ha ha) and/or work quickly to finish up newly started projects so they did not add to the pile of UFOs.  Which route do you think I took?!?  Let's see how the new projects fared:
Fresh New Starts & Finishes from 2013
Each of these finishes have been posted earlier in the year.  It should be noted that for the first few months I held on strong with regards to resisting new projects until April arrived.  One of my college friends was expecting her second daughter and I simply had to make her a baby girl quilt.  But I managed to start and finish it in just one weekend, so there was no lingering UFO/WIP--just a mere distraction from tackling all those UFOs.  That quick project opened Pandora's Box and I was soon starting a myriad of new projects but worked hard to keep them from becoming a future UFO.  In fact, 31 projects were started this year, with 27 finishes and only 4 projects will be carrying over into 2014 for an 87% completion rate!:
2013 New Projects that are WIPs
Starting top left and going clockwise:
  • Double Wedding Ring:  I need to rework a few of the sub-units for better matching seams, before I can assemble rows/columns.  Design and color-wise, this one has quilt show potential, so I want my workmanship to match.
  • Free Motion Quilting Sampler:  This is the free pattern that accompanies Leah Day's Free Motion Filler Volume 1 Craftsy Class.  In my attempt to find a more efficient way of assembling the blocks, I accidentally sewed the strips to the wrong ends and chose to trim off those seams rather than rip, yielding slightly smaller blocks but not a huge issue.  At this time, the blocks are all assembled into 7 or 8 rows and just need be assembled, add borders and layer for some fun FMQ filler practice!!
  • Butterflies in Free Motion:  This was one of the workshops from PIQF.  I finished fusing one of the butterflies in class, but wanted to do 2 more to do the full pattern.  Since PIQF, I have traced all the patterns onto fusible and just need to fuse/assemble the 2 remaining butterflies, add borders and it too will be ready for FMQing!
  • Hummingbird Quilt:  this was started in Kathy McNeil's Feathers are Flying workshop.  I loved the fused hummingbirds, but wanted to do something different for the background, so I have since created the grid background, 3-D flowers and need to sort out the 3-D vines and order of assembling/quilting before it is complete.
I am pleased with my progress this year and find the studio is less cluttered with UFOs haunting me daily.  As I did not completely eradicate my UFOs, I may carry this resolution into 2014 as I'd love to lose the guilt of unfinished projects.  I will also try to be thoughtful when starting new projects, but there simply is no cure to my Quilter's ADD!  :-)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 New Years Resolution Review #3: Enhance My Photography Skills

While visiting other websites or blogs, I admired the photographs quilters captured of their projects or progress, and I'll admit I was envious.  So I set out to enhance my own photography skills in effort to better document my adventures.  Moreover, as Historian for my quilt guild, it became essential to capture the beauty and detail of the quilts displayed by both fellow members and visiting artists during our monthly meetings, workshops and other association events.

Task number one was to better understand my camera, so I set out to read the manual and play with the various features/modes.  And while I did not get through the entire manual, I did unlock a few fun features to help me maximize its technology.  I also purchased a Digital Photography book which I worked partially through to better understand the theory behind stunning digital photograph.  And then I completed Caro Sheridan's online Craftsy class:  Shoot It!  A Product Photography Primer to learn more about how she stages various projects to promote the artists talents.

All three sources provided great tips and inspiration, but ultimately I needed to get out there to practice and experiment.  And experiment I did by taking over 4600 photos in 2013!!  (I was totally surprised by that tally, not that all 4600 pics are post-worthy mind you!!)

One aspect of photography that I experimented with was backdrops for my finished quilts.  Sometimes to Doug's great frustration, I sought out new photo shoot locations to display my artwork and bring some extra visual interest to my quilt photos.  I now have my own set of clamps, hangers, dowels, pvc so I can independently hang and photograph my own quilts at new locations without the need for a certain individual who has formally submitted his resignation from his photo shoot assistant posting.  

I had fun seeking out novel locations and props to add some extra ambiance to my finished project photo shoots.  While some photographs were still taken indoors, I sought to incorporate new props such as legos.  Or if I didn't feel like venturing beyond the backyard, I enjoyed incorporating various plant life to serve as a back drop.  But the most fun settings proved to be hanging quilts at the local park across pathway bridges or better yet, on the jungle gym equipment!  I am sure a number of people turned their heads to see what the heck I was doing out there with quilts draped across the monkey bars!   Here are some of my favorite photo shoot locations and backdrops for finished projects in 2013:

And what photo shoot isn't complete without some models to show off these beautiful quilts.  Skippy & Panda to the rescue--and luckily they are fairly well trained to pose and actually look at the camera (although there is usually a higher rate of outtakes involved during their photo shoot session because one dog is looking away, sticking out his/her tongue or some other unsightly behavior!  But here are some of my favorite pics featuring my muttly muses:

Besides having some fun quilt pics to document and celebrate my quilt finishes, here are some additional benefits to enhancing my photography skills:
  • Photographs to share with others.  I enjoy having fun pics to post on my blog, Pinterest page and even send to instructors as a thank you for their guidance, instruction and support in that particular project.  Doug keeps telling me "more pics, less words!!," so I aim to please.  
  • Far less stress at guild meetings during the fast-paced Show and Tell.  I am able to maneuver my camera to keep up with the fast pace of monthly meeting Show and Tell and capture fairly straight pictures of the quilts being shown on stage as well as capture some close up details during the half-time break.  
  • Positive feedback from fellow guild members about pictures that were posted on our website gallery, used in our monthly newsletter and/or on our facebook page.  
  • Far less outtakes to sort through and/or edit for use, which saves both time and storage space and greatly expedites the process of uploading, editing and posting.
  • And best of all:  Photos of in-progress projects can be used to crop and/or edit in MS Publisher or Powerpoint to work out quilt design decisions such as block layout, border designs, quilting motifs and more without the need for a seam ripper!  Without having to fear about ripping out poor design decisions, I was free to explore new ideas that yielded far more exciting and intriguing quilts.
Here's to another year of beautiful quilts to photograph!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 New Years Resolution Review #2: Gather the courage to enter my work in a quilt show and/or competition

Luminosity on Display at SCVQA's Shower of Stars Quilt Show

April brought SCVQA's bi-annual quilt show, Shower of Stars.  I seized the opportunity to enter several of my quilts into this year's show both to represent my work as a quilter and to promote the workshops offered by SCVQA.  I ended up having 8 pieces on display and a small modern block within the BAMQG banner.

It was a proud moment to see them on public display among the other 400+ absolutely gorgeous quilts made by our members.

Unfortunately, I totally wimped out about submitting any of my quilts for PIQF or the New Quilts of Northern California.  Quite frankly, I didn't have anything new or ready in time to stand their own at PIQF. But I may just have to put my big girl pants on and finish quilting some quilt tops that could be serious contenders for October 2014 PIQF!

My own Shower of Stars on Display at SCVQA Shower of Stars Quilt Show

But I did go above and beyond by helping with the organization of the SCVQA quilt show which turned out to be a great learning experience and networking opportunity, along with loads of work!  It was simply amazing to be part of the 12-hour transformation of the large convention center exhibit hall into a vibrant quilt show with over 400 quilts on display, 30+ vendors and all kinds of activities for attendees.

Fortunately, I get a 2 year reprieve until the next quilt show!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 New Years Resolution Review #1: Try My Hand at English Paper Piecing

The LQS workshop on English Paper Piecing provided me with a relaxing and fun new way of quilting.  I was skeptical about all that hand piecing, but it proved to be very relaxing and I loved the portability.  Now I could sit in the living room while Doug watched netflix without feeling guilty about not being productive.  And while I haven't finished a completely EPP'd project, I certainly made some great progress with a rainbow of Grandmother Garden Flowers.

Not sure what I want to create with all those rainbow hexies...a flower garden scene?  Applique onto solid squares?  Make more hexies?!?  Oh the possibilities.  But until I decide, the paper templates will remain in place for support.  But I do hope to continue EPP in years to come!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas to Dye For

The living room was filled with holiday cheer as Christmas rapidly approached.  I must admit that I still get giddy about Christmas morning and opening presents!

Tradition is for Doug to gift me a sewing machine for Christmas and lots of quilting related gifts.  Last year he showered me with lots of fabric, templates and local quilt shop gift cards.  So with Christmas approaching, I kept asking whether this year would bring a long arm machine. And as each wrapped gift arrived under the Christmas tree, I kept asking whether it was my long arm, and even though the packages were too small for an actual long arm, I speculated whether they might be long arm accessories and/or I might need to assemble my long arm machine?!? 

So you can imagine my surprise when I opened my stocking to find a canister of car wipes and my first two packages included a breathalyzer and ginormous wine glass!  Where was the fabric?!?  Quilt notions?  Sewing machine?!?  

But he quickly recovered with the next large box which contained a variety of plastic squirt bottles and came with a large 10 gallon bucket.  While most people might be wondering what the $?%&?, I was absolutely delighted with his extremely thoughtful gift!  

Especially since they were accompanied with funnels, squirt bottles, 3 yards of white prepared for dye fabric, two how-to books on fabric dyeing and many samples of fabric dye.  

I am so excited to get started with dyeing my own fabric, as I just love the range of colors and effects you can achieve.  These gifts will certainly add some color to the year ahead!

Alas...I didn't get my Christmas long arm machine, but I did get a new sewing machine this year!  It's a miniature antique ornament to adorn our our Christmas tree...thanks to my mother!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Deck the Halls...Tis the Season to Get Crafty!

Deck the halls!
Once the Starburst quilt series was complete, it was time to whip up some holiday fun for family and friends.  So I went to work pulling out a pile of fabric and fun embellishments to bring my vision to life.  I even enlisted Doug to help make quilts for his family.

After fusing on stabilizer to the background fabrics, we went to work creating rings of texture using a variety of yarns, embroidery floss and threads.  Using Solvy water disolvable stabilizer to cover each ring, I was able to zig zag stitch using invisible thread.  Once all the yarns were stitched in place, it was time to wash away all the stabilizer and press the squares back into shape to layer and quilt.

Rings Ready for Quilting

I quilted my elongated spirals using glitter and metallic threads in the bobbin work--which really added some festivity to the background.  And with the holidays rapidly approaching, I did all the binding by machine--which was fast and still looked great.  In fact I did all the machine binding while watching NBC's new version of the Sound of Music.  While it could never live up to the Julie Andrews version, it was perfect background for quilting and binding!

Now it was time to embellish and bring these holiday quilts to life complete with red ribbon and holly leaves buttons.  Ta da!!
Here are some close ups:

Made by Doug!

Also designed by Doug!

And Doug was getting crafty out in the garage working on our annual Christmas ornaments.