Monday, June 29, 2015

Focus Through the Prism Project QUILTING Challenge #2: Friendship Star

June 1st launched the 2nd month of the Focus Through the Prism Project QUILTING Challenge, with this month featuring the Friendship Star.  This month, I chose to use the indigo fabric from the Cherrywood ROYGBIV bundle along with a colorful selection of argyle print, gelato ombre and swirling spirals.  I was torn as to which ombre to use for my background and had my small quilt group weigh in on their favorite.  They were great about helping me to narrow down the field and the yellow to blue ombre was the winning pick.
Fabric selection, auditioning different ombres for my background and the winning design
There was some trepidation and procrastination with piecing the top as I wasn't 100% certain of the dimensions needed, so I ended up supersizing the background, in order to allow ample shrinking once the quilting was added.  
Quilt sketches, winning design in the top left--thanks Angela Walters!
Another reason for my procrastination was that my Bernina had been in the shop for 2+ weeks and I needed it to accomplish the free motion quilting.  After replacing a chip and then the LCD screen, the repairman said the only option left was to swap out the entire computer memory, which would require another week!  After a brief moment of panic, I collected myself and inquired whether they might have a loaner available and was so relieved when they offered me a complementary machine that was very similar to my own.  Alleluiah!!

Look at all that Quilted Texture!!

I spent some time getting acquainted with this new machine, starting with my stitching in the ditch and straight line quilting along the argyle spinning borders, before attempting any free motion quilting.  I sketched out several motifs but none were all that enticing. Then I turned to my collection of Angela Walter's books for inspiration and tried out 2 new motifs which were an instant success once sketched out.  

Much to my relief, I had no issues adjusting to the new machine and managed to complete all the free motion quilting in one evening!  

These echo spirals and background ripples are definitely being added to my list of favorite quilting motifs!!   They were super easy to quilt and provide so much rich texture!!

Once quilted, I trimmed it down to the 20" square dimensions required for the challenge and added a final pop of Indigo for the binding.  

Naming quilts always seems to stump me.  I always marvel at other quilter's creative names for their quilted creations.  I made a list of words related to this particular project:  friendship, star, starry, argyle, spirals, azure, etc; and then sent a picture to my mother who said it looked like a galaxy.  One class of galaxies is the spiral galaxy, which captured the center spiral fabric as well as the spinning borders.  Hence my quilt title:  Argyle and Azure Spiral Galaxy." 

And without further ado, and a day to spare before the June 30th entry deadline.  Be sure to check out all the other fabulous designs submitted!!

Argyle and Azure Spiral Galaxy measuring 20"x20"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dyeing to Experiment

Its only been a year and a half in the making, but I finally got my fabric dyeing mojo going!!  Yes, I declared my interest in learning fabric dyeing as part of the 2014 New Year's Resolutions, and while I made some progress in terms of gathering the supplies and reading a few books, I just never found the time or courage to give it a try.  But thanks to a friend's encouragement and company, we had a little Dyeing party earlier this week.  In preparation, we both finished watching Jane Dunnewold's "The Art of Cloth Dyeing" Craftsy class, purchased prepared for dye (PFD) fabric and did our fabric manipulations the day or two before.  While I had most of the dyes and fabrics needed, I did put in a final order with Dharma Trading Company for gloves, 2-3 primary color dyes, cleaner and pimatex cotton.  I was blown away by how well their website was laid out, all the great information/resources included and their exceptional customer service.  Their shipment emails were super cute and I was absolutely amazed to find the package had arrived the very next day, despite paying for ground shipping!  (Note:  Dharma Trading Company is located 2 hours north...but still very impressive that it arrived the very next day!)

Doug helped me set up several work benches to create an outdoor wet lab, so we did not have to worry about making a mess.  And because "safety is sexy" we both had our gloves, masks, aprons and dye removal scrub at the ready!  I was thankful to have a 2nd pair of gloves to swap out once the first pair got a bit damp inside--yuck, although they did their job as we never needed to resort to using any of the dye removal scrub!
Folded/tucked/clamped/scrunched/rubberbanded fabrics ready, gloves=best friend, outdoor wet lab for dye and dry
Once we set up our work stations, we whipped up several batches of dye stock using Jane's recipe (hot water, salt and soda ash), which we then added a teaspoon or less of fiber reactive procion dye powder.  At first, we started out slow and simple with some of the primary colors (magenta, turquoise and lemon yellow).  Once we got the hang of the process, we were soon mixing up our own recipes to create reddish orange, chartreuse and more!  In less than 2 hours, we had immersed our bundles of manipulated fabrics into one or more dyes and had even done the bulk of the clean up!  My friend came prepared with lots of ziploc baggies to seal everything up and then contain within another plastic bin for safe transport home.  

Now came the hard part...waiting for the fabrics to batch a minimum of 4 hours, but ideally a full 24 hours!!  I will admit that I did not make it the full 24 hours, as I woke up the next morning to find one of my baggies had sprung a leak.  Since it has been 20 hours, I figured it was ok to start rinsing that one bundle so it did not leak any more dye.  I may have started with good intentions, but I knew that it would be a slippery slope once the first bundle had been opened.  The supplies were already out--so what was the harm in opening up just one more bundle!?!  Well 7 bundles later, I finally stopped only because I had a morning appointment!!  It was like Christmas morning, as I unwrapped each package to reveal a new and wonderful surprise!!

I rushed home after my appointment and went to work in the hot weather rinsing the remaining 7 bundles (which had been batching for 24+ hours).    Rinsing took some time and elbow power--and I was still seeing some runoff despite changing out the water in each bin.  After I was dripping in sweat from the heat and changing out bins of water, I decided to switch to using the washing machines to wash a small batch of warm colors and another of cool colors.  After a cold and hot cycle for each, they were then combined for a final cold and hot wash cycle and then dried and pressed.  And now, for the final reveal of my first dye party...

WARNING:  lots of pictures to follow!!
Folded Fabrics (clockwise):  pleated in eggplant, pleated and clamped between plexiglass magenta, flag folded and clamped red-orange and then isometric folded and clamped magenta.
Folded with clothespins along the edges:  lime isometric triangles and red-orange rectangles
Top to bottom:  Magenta folded--notice the difference in brightness front to back (I also love the lighter perimeter), Shibori in turquoise, yellow (the only dud in terms of patterning, but still great color) and then eggplant with cd's tucked between folded fabrics
My favorites:  scrunched with subtle but striking explosions of texture and color!
As I was reading up on hand dyeing and watching Jane's class, I saw so many beautifully rich hand dyed fabrics.  I tried very hard not to go in expecting to achieve perfectly hand dyed fabrics at the start, so I wasn't too disappointed by my initial experiments.  But after seeing all my initial results, I am pleasantly surprised.  As you can see--I got such a beautiful range of color and texture in my first session.  Only the yellow fabric which had been folded and then rolled did not produce clear texture, but otherwise a bold and bright fabric.  Everything else greatly exceeded my expectations.

I have always loved the look of hand dyed fabrics.  Unfortunately this love had prevented me from doing much with them as I just couldn't bear the thought of cutting into them.  But now that I am able to create more hand dyed fabrics of my own, it is my hope that I can start cutting into them and using them in future projects!!  As I was pressing my first batch of fabrics, I had visions of whole cloth quilts as well as possible pieced quilts...time will tell.  

Yes, I will confess that after just 1 dye session, I am most certainly hooked on hand dyeing my own fabric.  I am 'dyeing' to schedule future dye days to explore new dyeing techniques including tray dyeing and creating gradient solid colors.  Most of the fabrics used this week were of Kona weave, but I really loved the tighter weave of the Pimatex and will be looking to use more of that moving forward along with some more exotic fibers including Silk.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

We Rocked the 2015 Shop Hop by the Bay

Doug and I just finished a 3 day trek to visit all 13 quilt shops and the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and have our passports stamped, as part of the 2015 Shop Hop by the Bay.  Having Doug join the fun, meant we doubled our chances of winning some of the awesome prizes, including gift certificates, goody baskets and the grand prize:  Asilomar Retreat.  We kept joking that with our luck, it will be Doug's passport selected for the grand prize--meaning he will have to learn to love quilting super quick!  But even if we don't win one of the top prizes, we won out in other ways:

  • We set a personal record by visiting 10 shops on our first day!!  
  • Despite the small picnic we packed to stay charged, most of the quilt shops provided us with snacks and goodies along the way to stay energized!  
  • Each quilt shop provided us with a strip of fabric to assemble a patriotic flag table runner/wall hanging for us both.  
  • There were other fun give-aways including books, patterns, and other quilt related items.
  • And what shop hop is complete without some fun fabric purchases?!?  Interestingly enough, Doug joined in the hunt for fun fabrics, as he picked out some tote bag fabrics for himself and family.  His pile is at least a third the size of mine! 
  • Last but not least, the 2.5 day trek was a great opportunity to spend some quality time together...priceless!  We picked up a flyer for a Jingle Bell Hop in November, and started to map out possible routes?!? 

So wish us luck on the prize drawings and future shop hops!!
Shop Hop Mementos (clockwise starting top left): American Flag table runner fabric strips, give aways, finisher prizes and of course fabric purchases (Doug's pile is on the left!!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Coming up in July: Intriguing Interleaves Demonstration

I was honored to be invited to lead a Quilting 101 demonstration for our guild in the month of July.  There were lots of possibilities for a demo technique topic, but in the end, the Interleave quilts were selected.  In my program description, I've dubbed it "Intriguing Interleave Quilts" and promise to unlock all the secrets behind creating the illusion of curves and transparency in this quilt as you go technique.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that 25 members signed up on the first day of sign ups!!  That was great motivation for me to get to work on preparing my demonstration, complete with bright and colorful examples for each step of the process, along with little practice kits for members to practice the quilt as you go technique.  Below is sneak preview of some of the preparations thus far.  I am still fine tuning the take away instructions as a reference for those unable to complete their Interleave.
Samples and kits for July Quilting 101
Of course, I also needed to get reacquainted with the technique as well as experiment with some other templates, fabric selections and dimensions.  Up til now, I've used mostly tone on tone prints, the same template and size of fabric strips.  So for this project, I experimented with ombre fabrics, longer strip sets and a new template.  I brought the strip sets to my small quilt group, which piqued rhw interest of several of my fellow quilters.  Several watched the progression and offered some fabulous suggestions on alternatives to marking pencil lines every 1/2".  And yes, several were quick to sign up for the upcoming July 21st Quilting 101/Intriguing Interleave Demonstration while there are still a few open seats!  

Below are some pictures of this new Interleave:  "Harmonious Hills & Hazy Hues" ready for our upcoming meeting and preview of July's Quilting 101!
Harmonious Hills & Hazy Hues table runner/wall hanging modeled by Panda

Monday, June 15, 2015

Studio Improvements

My Bernina, aka Bernie, must have been upset with my absence, as it produced several fatal errors, when I went to turn it on to sew.  I tried powering it off and restarting but the message returned.  At first it allowed me to do a little sewing, but then stopped altogether.  So off it went for some repairs.  Turns out it needs a new chip, which is en route, so hopefully we will be reunited in another day or two.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder!

Skippy, Panda and Susie Q modeling with their newly upholstered studio hangout
So to help with my withdrawal, I kept busy in the studio doing some much needed organizing, cleaning and some studio improvements.  I did some significant purging of unused templates/tools, as well as books and magazines that no longer hold any interest for me.  They are headed off to the upcoming guild meeting, where I hope they will make another fellow quilter happy.

Shortly before my Florida trip, I kept smelling something funky in my studio.  The windows were open so I just assumed the smell was coming from outside.  But then I realized Skippy (my 15 year old schnauzer) must have vomited on one of the window seats.  I tried my best to clean the cushioned top, as well as use ample Febreeze, but the vomit smell was pretty well absorbed into the upholstery.  Besides, the once crisp white in the fabric showed considerable wear and dirt from several years of the dogs watching doggy tv.  Usually when it's time to reupholster anything, I cannot find any fun fabrics.  I lucked out this time and found a basic teal print that read as a solid that fit in with my teal decor and would hopefully disguise any dirt/hair from the dogs.  I made sure I scotchguarded them to help protect against future stains. 
Construction of the pegboard cabinet

A pegboard cupboard posted on Pinterest had also piqued my interest.  I showed the picture to Doug and asked whether it would be possible to build.  Later that night, we were off to Lowe's to pick up the lumber and supplies needed for this project.  We made a great team as we figured out the building plans/measurements and assembled the cabinet, complete with sliding doors and shelving.    

Pop of teal and french cleats for hanging
We made great time with the construction, until inclement weather hit northern California forcing us to shut down our outdoor work space.  But as soon as the sunny weather returned, we finished painting the pegboard and shellacking the wood.  I showed great restraint in waiting for it to thoroughly dry, so we could hang using a french cleat system.  I also waited an extra evening for it to dry some more before filling it with all my quilting notions and tools

Sliding Pegboard Cabinet doors slide back and forth to reveal all my notions
Enhanced task lighting
One last enhancement was installing under cabinet lighting for my cutting table.  I had originally had two plug in wall lamps that came out and shone down onto my cutting board.  But the pegboard came out from the wall too far for the light to hit the table.  So once again, we were off to Lowe's where we found some awesome LED lights that stuck to the underside of the cabinets and project some awesome light. 

I can't wait to pick up Bernie and bring her home to newly enhanced home! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sarasota: Sew Much Fun

I just returned from my trip to Sarasota, Florida to visit with my mother and brother.  Its been a few years since last seeing either of them, so I was most excited.  While planning and packing, I made sure I included the usual (clothing, toiletries, beach wear, etc), along with quilting fun.

My mother recently purchased a new home, so new housewarming quilts were in order.
Happy Home:  Mon Florida Keys 2 and McCalls Mystery Quilt
If the left quilt looks a bit familiar its because I made 2 with just slightly different orange bands.  The other quilt included Cherrywood orange fabric and a slightly different Kona, whereas this quilt features all Kona solids for the blocks in a slightly more vibrant color palette.
Side by side Mon Florida Keys Quilts:  Left for mom and right for the ROYGBIV Challenge
Both quilts look fabulous in their new Floridian home.
More Hexie Fun

Besides bringing 2 quilts--I needed some kind of project to get in a quick quilting fix.  I thought about bringing a fusible project and even went through the effort of fusing all the fabrics and then realized it would be too cumbersome to pack the rotary supplies needed.  So instead, I prepped some more English Paper Pieced hexies.  Despite taking a class back in February 2013 to learn EPP, I had only assembled 7 hexie flowers total since.  Well, I doubled that number on this trip!  It was the perfectly portable project to work on while waiting for my connecting flight or watching tv.  Although bringing a small pair of kids scissors through TSA security did require them to inspect the contents of my bag.  But this slight delay was well worth my progress!

And what trip is complete without a local quilt shop hop?!?  I contacted a quilting colleague who was local to the Sarasota area for some shop hop recommendations.  Unfortunately she was out of the area travelling but was sure to pass along her favorites, which were all fantastic leads!  Yes, my mother saw my fabric addition in full swing as I was stacking bolts of fabric at the cutting table (fabric finds on the left).

But she got in on the fabric fun as well, as she hunted for some fabrics to make some reversible totes for a colleague's birthday along with bird-themed fabrics, for me to make her a new quilt (pictured on the right).  The reversible bags are a fairly simple project to complete, but having very limited tools made it much more challenging as we improvised making do without any rotary equipment or rulers.  But both bags turned out fantastic and were adored by the lucky birthday girl.  Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of the finished projects, but you will have to trust me that they looked beautiful.

Linens for a whole cloth linen quilt
We also checked out some of the local thrift shops, where we found some linens, inspired by Cindy Needham's recent presentation.

Everything just barely fit into my suitcase for the return flight home.  I can't wait to pull some of these fantastic finds out to work on new and exciting quilts, perhaps some inspired by my Floridian adventures?!?

Thanks for a fantastic week with family, fun and fabric!!