Friday, April 29, 2016

Aussie Assist

Roo's Quilt Top
Joining Facebook has allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with friends near and far.  Take my friend Roo (Roo is her chosen camp name, appropriate for an Aussie), who was my partner in crime for several summers working at Girl Scout resident camp.  She was the Arts and Crafts guru, led the CIT program and helped plan all-camp programs and hilarious costumes for our Camp Director.  Turns out Roo is also a fellow quilter, and so we've had a few conversations about our quilting adventures living on different continents!  

Back in March, Roo PM'ed me and inquired about how I basted quilts for quilting.  After sharing my pin basting preferences, I inquired about her current project and asked to see a picture.  She sent me a photo of her newest quilt top and it was spectacular.  I especially loved the fun and modern design, especially all the negative space created by the raspberry solid fabric!!  There were so many possibilities for adding quilting texture!!  Roo asked me if I had any suggestions for quilting it.  I began by first learning more about her quilting preferences:  walking foot and/or free motion.  She shared that she had both options available but was more comfortable with a walking foot.  I imported her photo into my Paint program and sketched out some quilting lines, using dot to dot designs from Angela Walter's Dot-to-Dot Quilting Craftsy Class.  Stitching some straight lines would help break up the negative space and create a wonderful secondary design.  Each diamond could be further broken down with additional echo lines and/or filled in with free motion motifs:  figure eights, loop de loops, pebbles or anything else!
Quilting Designs Sketched
As I am not a fan of marking my quilt tops, I shared my trick of using blue painter's tape to help guide my stitching lines.  Roo was intrigued and had a few questions about placement of the blue painter's tape.  As I am not a technical writer, I took a few minutes to sketch her block onto paper and placed strips of blue painter's tape to show placement, and used a sharpie to mark stitching lines and even a stitching pathway to minimize starts and stops!
Visual Reference for No Mark Quilting Using Blue Painter's Tape
Roo was thankful for her "quilting lesson" and said that she felt like she had just been to a class!  She was impressed with how I was able to break it down to be fairly simple and easy, and she was ready to give it a try.  She decided that a trip to her local hardware store was in order to stock up on this new quilting tool, so I shared a few other uses for blue painter's tape (marking block placement, foundation piecing, etc).  It really is a very versatile tool for quilters!!  I was pleased that I was able to provide inspiration and guidance, even though we were 8000+ miles apart!  Yay for modern technology!!

After just a few days, Roo sent along pictures of her progress.  She did an expect job of taping her guidelines (much neater than me!!) and had begun stitching her diamond/kite shapes.
Roo's Progress on Dot to Dot Quilting
The ever wise Roo did some practice free motion quilting on a practice sampler and was feeling a little frustrated in the stitch quality.  I showed her some of my earlier free motion stitch samples that were wobbly, uneven and ugly.  I also shared some free motion quilting tips and encouraged her to keep practicing.  I remember how frustrated I was when I first started learning to FMQ and wished I had a magic wand to help.  Unfortunately, free motion quilting is one of those skills that is near impossible to teach via instant messaging, and does require practice, practice, practice.

The very next day, Roo sent me the following message:  "I have made an executive decision.  I am going to forego the free motion quilting on this project.  I am going to quilt some straight lines in the diamonds."  She included a sketch of her own which I thought was a perfect quilt design solution--more dot to dot quilted lines!!
Roo's Ingenious Design Solution--More Dot to Dot Quilting!
Roo's Beautifully Quilted Baby Quilt
After experiencing some technical difficulties with her walking foot, I was afraid Roo was ready to throw in the towel, and I felt terribly guilty that I had led her astray!  After referring to the sewing machine operational manual and looking at her machine in a new perspective, Roo was able to trouble shoot the glitch.  I know all too well how maddening it can be trying to sew with a machine that is not entirely cooperative!

So it was with great joy and relief that I received word a day or two later, sharing that she had resolved the issue and was now enjoying the process more.  Alleluiah!!  Just a few days later, she had finished all the quilting and was rather happy with how it turned out!  As she should be--as it really turned out truly spectacular!!

I too was pleased at how Roo embraced a new technique and showed great perseverance despite technical glitches with her sewing machine!!  Seeing the finished result and hearing her take such pride in her work was priceless, and I was so happy to be part of her quilting journey!

Imagine my surprise when I received a package from Australia this past week!  Inside, contained a lovely assortment of goodies:  fat quarters of Australian fabrics, a beach themed post it note pad, a thoughtful thank you card and more pictures of Roo's beautifully finished baby quilt.  I love the fabrics and can't wait to find a project worthy of cutting into them!
Aussie Thank You Gifts
So--does this make me an international quilt teacher?!?  ;-)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Texture & Form with Velda Newman

This month's SCVQA visiting quilt artist was Velda Newman.  Monday night, she shared her quilting journey including pictures of her home and studio, quilting progression that included a number of quilting accolades, design inspiration and of course, quilts.  Velda is known for her larger than life quilts!  As we were within driving distance, Velda brought two of her very large quilts (I believe her Zinnia quilt is 8 feet x 18 feet!!)  While most trunk shows only required 2-3 quilt holders, this trunk show required two teams of 8 or more of our tallest members!  They sure did have their work cut out as these quilts were heavy and given the height, most members had to hold their hands above their head and stand on their toes to hold the quilt up!  After viewing her amazing Zinnia quilt, Velda then pulled out her newest quilt which was still in progress.  As a result, she asked that we not take any pictures, but let me tell you this one is simply gorgeous, radiant, spectacular, magnificent...

I left the meeting feeling so inspired and even more excited about taking Velda's workshop "Texture & Form" on the following day.  Velda expertly led us through four different projects, sharing her tips & tricks along the way!  It was an ambitious agenda, but Velda paced it well and I never felt rushed or pressured.

First up was Velda sharing how she uses stitched lines to create the illusion of dimension and texture in her Baskets quilt.  We added several layers of interest to create dimension in our own simplified baskets.

Once we had practiced the various processes, we moved onto lemons.  There was a small glitch on the supply list and very few people brought yellow fabric, but we all had yellow-green fabric, so most of us ended up with limes instead!  This may have been my favorite technique as we stitched some basic contour lines and then bisected each line with more and more stitching lines.  It was rather meditative, which was a good thing as Velda told me to keep going until you stop seeing the square grid!    
Baskets of Fun, When Life Doesn't Hand You Lemons--Make Limes Instead!
After lunch, we moved onto leaves.  Again, Velda showed us several techniques she uses to create dimensional leaves complete with veins.  We each had opportunity to practice stitching pleats to simulate the veins of a leaf.  The side veins were fairly easy, but I struggled a bit with the center vein...and as a result, my quilt has a little extra dimension and texture...albeit not intentional!
My Leaves Have a Bit More Dimension and Texture Than Velda's Leaves...
Cantaloupe Texture
The final exercise was recreating the texture of cantaloupes!  Inexpensive cheesecloth (many thanks to one of my tablemates who had yards and yards of cheese cloth) was manipulated and layered onto our fabric and batting, and free motion quilted pebbles add the final layer of cantaloupe texture!  I thought I had manipulated my cheesecloth sufficiently and was about to start stitching, when Velda arrived at my side just in time to help me add even more texture and dimension.  I was a little nervous about free motion quilting on my travel machine, as I do most of it on my Bernina at home.  But I surprised myself at adapting to the other machine and not relying on my Bernina Stitch Regulator!

Last but not least, Velda gave us a bonus demo on how she uses paints on her quilts to create even more depth and color!!  It was amazing to watch her transform another student's lemon with a few strokes of light green looked 3-dimensional!!  And while she makes it look very easy, I know it is because of her years of art classes and painting on her own quilts!
Projects from Velda's Workshop
I am still in awe at how much we covered!  I am not entirely sure whether anything will become of my grouping of textured forms made in the workshop.  More importantly, I leave with a whole new batch of tricks and techniques that will help me incorporate more dimension and texture in future quilt projects!!

Many thanks to Velda and the SCVQA Programs committee for a really wonderful workshop!!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Adventures with Mom Part 3: Fun in the Quilt Studio

My mother's visit included many adventures:  Ziplining and hiking in the Redwood forest, wine tasting, touring San Francisco, comedy Improv night, shopping, Paint Nite and of course, time in the quilt studio!

My mother wanted to make some items to bring back for her co-workers and staff.  First we whipped up some zippered bags featuring bbq, flamingos and ocean wave motifs.  All six bags were made assembly line style, with my mother proving to be a very efficient and proficient assistant!  She selected the fabrics and made quick/neat work of all the pressing needs, reassembling the zippers and zig zag stitching the insides.  That left me with following the pattern, cutting the fabrics and installing the zippers.  While we were in San Francisco, she picked up some Ghirardelli chocolates to put inside each bag for a sweet surprise!
Sew Sweet Gift Bags for Co-workers
Next up was two reversible tote bags featuring a San Francisco themed fabric, commemorating our day visiting San Francisco:  one for a co-worker and one for herself!

But the big project was collaborating on a baby quilt for a friend who was expecting her first child this summer!  Prior to mom's arrival, we discussed possible pattern ideas and she fell in love with the Zig Zag Love pattern.  Once again, mom proved to be an exception quilting assistant.  Her first duty was to take lead on the fabric pull.  Originally, we pulled yellow prints and solids but soon realized a second color was needed.  Teal charm squares were added with a few yellow/teal prints, and set on a background of solid white.  I took care of cutting the fabrics while mom got to work on assembling the block units.  Once the blocks were assembled, it was time to lay out the precious pieced hearts.  We opted for alternating rows of yellow and teal hearts.  Mom went to work laying out the hearts and did a fantastic job of creating contrast between the various blocks and balancing different values and textures!  Once all the rows were sewn together, we decided to make the quilt a bit larger by adding border fabrics to the top and bottom.  We found the perfect zig zag print on my stash and supplemented with some small scale prints that read as a solid!    
Quilt Assistant Extraordinaire!
We managed to finish piecing the top and pin baste it for quilting in a little over 1 day.  We even spent some time discussing quilting motifs!!  Yup--we make quite the quilting duo!!   
After sketching some figure eights and loop de loops, I sketched out some feathers which really appealed to mom.  They turned out to be super fun to free motion quilt in the negative space (zig zags and diamonds) as well as into alternating zig zags of the border print.  The quilting was so much fun that I completed it in just one day!!
Before and After Feathery Fun
I Love Quilting Feathers!!
Now that it is bound and labelled, this little beauty is headed out to Florida this week, before being sent up to Ohio for the lucky parents to be!  May it bring warms and love to the new bundle of fun!!
"Zig Zag Baby Love", 25"x35"

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Adventures with Mom Part 2: Paint Nite

Red Roses and Blue Bicycle
As part of my mother's visit, we attended Paint Nite.  There were quite a few parties being hosted throughout the Bay Area during her visit--it was difficult to choose just one.  My mother got very excited when she saw the "Red Roses and Blue Bicycle" painting and so tickets were promptly purchased before it sold out.  I will confess that there were some elements of this design that intimidated me, but confident that our hosting Artist would break it down for us!

Our mother/daughter Paint Nite date was on the same day as our morning hike and afternoon wine tasting.  We had an hour or so to unwind from the morning festivities before we took off to get our painting on!

Our hostess did a fantastic job creating a fun, festive and stress-free painting party.  She guided us through each step of the process:  introduction to the tools provided, mixing colors, painting our background, and tackling the dreaded bicycle frame!  Once she broke down the smaller components of the bicycle--it was super easy and fun!!  My favorite part was adding the basket and roses!

The two hours flew by, and soon we were adding the finishing touches to our paintings.  As we left, we got a picture of us each proudly holding our creations!!  No two paintings look alike, and it was fun to see the subtle differences between our pieces.  All in all, it was a super fun and creative way to bond with my mother!  Once my Red Roses and Blue Bicycle is proudly hung, it will remind me of this special evening spent creating with my mother!!
Mother Daughter Bonding at Paint Nite

Friday, April 22, 2016

Adventures with Mom Part 1: Exploring the Redwood Forest

Mystery Spot Fun
My mother flew out for a week long visit, and boy did we manage to pack in a lot of Northern California adventures!  One of the highlights of our trip was ziplining in the Redwood forest!  We spent the morning having so much fun zipping from tree to tree but did not get any pictures.  Before returning to San Jose, we visited Santa Cruz's Mystery Spot for an afternoon of mystery.

Two days later, we were back in the Redwood forest for a morning of hiking at Mt. Madonna county park.  It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day:  perfect for hiking!  Design inspiration was abundant here in the Redwood forest!!

We kick-started our hike with the Self Guided Nature Trail that starts and ends with the ruins of Henry Miller's home.
Inspiration All Around
This one mile trek features several stone foundations, partial walls and stairwells surrounded by the natural elements reclaiming the forest.
Natural and Man-made Textures
After we concluded the Nature Tour, we set out along the Tan Oaks Trail.  The Redwood trees are simply majestic, many of them dating 400-1000+ years old!!  Our ziplining tour guides shared some Redwood Tree knowledge.  Redwood trees thrive when surrounded by other Redwood trees in tree rings.  We also learned how to differentiate younger trees based on the presence of lower branches and bark textures.      
Mother & Daughter Tree Huggers
When I wasn't looking up at the tree canopy, I was admiring all the flora and fauna found on the forest floor:  moss, flowers, clover and banana slugs!!  Shortly into the forest, we spotted our first banana slug climbing up a tree trunk.  As we trekked on, we found a total of 4 banana slugs.  Towards the end of this particular trail, there were several fields of clover.  In one particular clearing, we delighted in how the clover leaves closed themselves in the presence of the bright sun.  
Flora & Fauna Found on the Forest Floor  
Wine Tasting!!
After a perfectly delightful hike, we were reluctant to leave the trail and return to civilization!

Instead of whining about it, we wined and dined to celebrate!  We visited a few of the local Morgan Hill wineries for some wine tasting!!  We discovered some new favorites and purchased a few bottles to enjoy back home!!

All in all, it was a lovely day, filled with inspiration and beauty!!

Stay tuned for more adventures with Mom!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Sailing Around the World

PFD Check!  Boating Safety is Sexy!
This month's Modern Quilts Unlimited "Everything Old is New Again" block makeover presented two block options:  Airplane or Sailboat.

Being an Aquarius and having spent most of my summers at Girl Scout resident camp (canoe regatta weeks, lifeguard and former summer camp Waterfront Director) I opted to give the Sailboat block a modern makeover.  Now I will confess that our waterfront was located on a fairly small lake, so most of our boating instruction focused on canoes, kayaks, row boats, paddle boats and training for the annual canoe regatta.  But the camp did own two small Sunfish sailboats that I would occasionally take out on some of the more windy days.  Having little training in the art of sailing, I was always sure to bring my trusty canoe paddle, just in case the wind did not want to cooperate!

For my modern makeover, I used EQ7 to design several versions of a small sailboat, complete with a flag and wake of water waves.  Each block has 18 pieces of fabric--some of which are pretty tiny!  Thank goodness for foundation piecing!!
EQ7 Sailboat translated into Foundation Pieced Sailboat

This block was then set into a 4 patch layout, rotating each square 90 degrees, creating a wonky star center and starry points in each corner.
Sailing Around the World, Finishes 12"x12"
 Online voting (facebook account required) will begin April 11th and continue through April 15th.  Be sure to cast your vote for your favorites!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Point, Click, Quilt?!?

Favorite Discoveries in Mundane Location #1:  Utillity Meters/Trash Area
During a recent library visit, I checked out Susan Brubaker Knapp's book entitled "Point, Click, Quilt!"  I really wish I had read this gem prior to my Monochromatic Fused Floral project, but better late than never!  She provides a wealth of tips and examples for composing great photographs that have potential to make for lovely quilts.  She also provides a number of exercises and missions for inspiration.  Today, I took advantage of a break in the rain to tackle Mission Number 2:  Shoot in a Mundane Location.  I started by photographing the side of our house where the utility meters are located and where we typically store our trash and recycling bins.  Other than taking out the recycling and trash, I spend very little time here.  Spending just 5 or so minutes, I took a total of 20 photographs that included a variety of interesting compositions, color, lines and textures.  Most of this area was concrete, plaster, metal, plastic, brick and wood, but I was delighted to find some evidence of nature, even if it was just a weed!

Vibrant Foliage
From there, I explored the front of the house which I pass by daily, but never spend much time up close and personal.  Here I spent more time and took another 30 or so photographs.

Even though this area faces the north and does not receive as much sun, there was still a wealth of lush green foliage (much thanks to all the rain we've been getting these past few weeks).

I also captured a variety of wooden landscapes and textures found in the fencing and dead tree trunk in front.  I took loads more pictures of the many patterns and designs, but here are some of my favorite wooden shots.

Wooded Wonders
Here are a few more interesting photos of interesting lines, shapes and textures, taken of both man-made items (shutters and brick work) and nature (rocks).
Final Textural Finds
Will any of these photographs lead to future quilts?!?  Perhaps?  Regardless, this fun exercise got me outside for a bit and helped me to appreciate my surroundings and develop a better eye for interesting compositions, lines and textures.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lucky Month

Rarely do I win contests or drawings...but this past month or so, I have had some luck on my side...

Random Drawing Winnings
-My "Binary Log Cabin" quilt won 3rd place in the Log Cabin category as part of the "A Focus Through the Prism" challenge series display in Sun Prairie, WI.  You can see all the quilts that placed here.

-While my "Mystical Mandala" did not receive the most votes in the Project Quilting's "All About Thread" challenge, it did earn me an entry into the drawing to win Random Prizes from Persimmon Dreams.  I was super excited to learn that my name was drawn to receive a mini box of Aurifil threads from Jennifer Sampou's collection!!  I had a chance to see Jennifer Sampou speak at QuiltCon and she is just fabulous!!  And I do love working with Aurifil threads! 

Viewer's Choice Winnings
-And in the final round of Project Quilting, my "Sunrise & Sunset" quilt did receive the most votes and earned "Viewer's Choice" for the Monkey Wrench challenge round.  This was a huge honor, and also came with another mini box of Aurifil threads and a set of Project Quilting pins to commemorate my participation!  Many thanks to all who voted!  

-Last but not least, my Midnight Mystery Quilt Along quilt top was drawn to win  semi-dense all-over quilting from Jan's Among the Groves quilting services!  Unfortunately, I had already started to quilt my Mystery Quilt top, but I was able to submit a comparable sized quilt top to be quilted, so I sent off an improvisational quilt top made from UFO Exchange leftover scraps!  I had already pin basted it, but figured it would be way faster for me to remove the pins and send out for quilting, rather than wait for turn in my growing quilting queue!  The quilt backing, batting and top went out in this week's post and I can't wait to see how Jan transforms it with quilted texture!  I will be sure to post pics once it's back and bound!

What a lucky month (or two) for me and my quilts!!