Friday, September 30, 2016

Four Years as Historian...

Show and Tell Sign In Sheet
Today marks the end of my four year term as Historian for the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association.  These past four years have truly flown by and I am proud of my service to the Board of Directors and Association.  This past Monday during our General Meeting, I shared my top 5 benefits of being the Historian, in hopes of finding someone willing to serve as Historian for the next two years.

1.  There is no need to come to the meetings early to get a good seat, as one is already reserved for the Historian in the very center of the front row!  
It's a pretty sweet seat and comes with a number of perks and privileges!  I've especially enjoyed getting to interact with our guest speakers, who also get a reserved spot in the front row!

2.  Sitting front row center means you can really see and admire all the wonderful quilted details and embellishments that make ours members' quilts so beautiful and special.
I am always in awe at the talents and skills of our memberships and their quilts are a testament to their creativity, hard work and love of quilting.

3.  As you edit the pictures, you get to relieve the beauty of all the quilts that are shown as part of our monthly meeting Show and Tell aka Mini Quilt Show.  
On average 40 or more quilted items are displayed during our show and tell, so photographing them all tends to be pretty fast paced!  Oftentimes, I am focused on getting a nice square shot as the quilts are quickly passed up onto the stage and then returned to their maker.  So it is a real treat to return home and spend more time admiring each quilted beauty as I prepare the photos for use with our newsletter, social media and online gallery.

4.  Being Historian has helped me to learn so many names, faces and quilts of our membership! 
Certainly taking photographs during the meetings and events, that are then labeled helps me match members names to their face and quilts--no easy feat when your guild has nearly 500 members!  Being Historian has helped me overcome my shyness, as I approach members during the various workshops and events and ask their permission to photograph them and/or their work.  This brief icebreaker has really helped me to get to know our members and build a number of friendships within the Association.

5.  It really is one of the easiest and least time consuming positions on our Board of Directors! 
I've greatly enjoyed serving on the Board of Directors and being part of the decision making for our Association.  I've taken that responsibility to heart as I've strived to do what was best for our members, our Association and our future.  I've also appreciated the teamwork among the volunteers serving on the Board, and have learned something from each.  Even after some of our more spirited discussions, I am always appreciative for everyone's respect and understanding.

My sincere thanks and appreciation...

  • Ileane H who helped to get me more involved in the Association and nominating me for the Historian position.  I was fairly new to the guild and Northern California, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to get plugged in and meet so many wonderful people!!
  • Sylvia M for taking a risk on this shy and fairly new member and appointing me as Historian under her Presidency.  I've also learned a lot from Sylvia's leadership, service and commitment to SCVQA.
  • Fellow volunteers that have served on the board over the past four years.  I've greatly enjoyed the camaraderie, as well as all your thoughtful insights about the Association and future directions.
  • Visiting guests/lecturers for sharing your journey, work and beautiful creations with our memberships.  I have greatly enjoyed listening to your lectures/trunk shows, photographing your wonderful creations and getting to know you during the breaks.
  • Last but not least, all the fellow members who have been so welcoming, positive and trusting with me photographing you and your amazing creations in photographs over the past four years!!  I've greatly enjoyed celebrating your quilting journeys, capturing your finished projects and always in awe at the talent and creativity of our membership.  And now future generations of SCVQA members will also be able to admire and celebrate your artistic contributions.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The 70,273 Project

A friend introduced me to The 70,273 Project, conceived and organized by North Carolina quilter and blogger, Jeanne Hewell-Chamber.  Jeanne had watched After a documentary about the 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people (men, women, teens and children) murdered by German Nazis between 1940 and 1941.  These individuals' fates were decided when Nazi doctors reviewed their medical files (vs. an actual exam/interview) and if they deemed the individual to be "unfit" or an "economic burden on society", the doctor would place a red X at the bottom of the form.  Three doctors reviewed the medical files and once two doctors made a red X, the individual's fate was sealed and typically murdered within 1-2 hours' time.

Jeanne decided to "commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (respresenting innocence and the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X's (representing one person) and I will stitch them together into quilts."  70,273 blocks is a massive undertaking and Jeanne's blog/website outlines ways you can get involved and help this project become a reality.  The first is to help share this project with others via word of mouth, social media and often!  The second involvement opportunity is to make one or more blocks to send to Jeanne to be incorporated into a quilt.

Several members of my small quilt group plan on making blocks to send along to Jeanne.  The two Xs can be created using any type of red fiber or technique (embellishments, stitching, applique and/or piecing).  I was asked to demonstrate how to construct the Xs using the Slice and Insert technique.  In preparation, I spent the afternoon piecing 9 blocks including 3 blocks in each of the sizes requested for use in the quilts (3.5" x 6.5", 6.5" x 9.5", 9.5"x 12.5").

Finished Blocks Improv Pieced for the 70,273 Project
I've included some pictures and notes outlining my process, for those that may wish to construct blocks of their own using Slice and Insert improvisational piecing.

To help me get a sense of the block size, I started by making paper mock ups in each of the three sizes.  I then folded each sheet in half and drew an X on each side to get a sense of the strip dimensions needed to insert.
Paper Mock Up Blocks 
For each 3.5" x 6.5" blocks:
  • 1 White background blocks cut 4.5" x 7.5" (I added 1" to the width and height needed)
  • 4 Red X strips cut 1" wide and anywhere from 2.5" to 3" long
  • 8 Floating white strips cut 1" wide and 2-3" long
For the 6.5" x 9.5" blocks:
  • 1 White background blocks cut 7.5" x 10.5"
  • 4 Red X strips cut 1.25" wide* and 5-5.5" long
  • 8 Floating white strips cut 3" long
For the 9.5" x 12.5" blocks:
  • 1 White background blocks cut 10.5" x 13.5"
  • 4Red X strips cut 1.5" wide* and 7-7.5" long
  • 8 Floating white strips cut 3" long
I began by assembling my floating strips by stitching a corresponding white strip to each end of my Red X strips.  I chose to cut two strips from each red fabric to complete one X, but you could certainly mix and match strips for your Xs.  I opted to press the white strips away from the red strips (but that is simply personal preference in order to give the Xs a bit more loft) 

*  Half of the floating red and white strips were later trimmed down to 1" to simplify the X construction and alignment.

I chose to press each background square into half to serve as a visual guide for evenly distributing the inserted Xs.  I then made a diagonal slice on either side of the fold.  I was careful to make my slices an inch or more away from the edges and corners which helped to prevent extreme angles or my Xs being cut during the final trimming stage.  One of the pieced floating units was then inserted into each cut using a 1/4" seam.  I was careful to center the red strip withing the seam allowance in order to prevent it from get cut during the trimming step.  Once I sewed on a strip, I pressed it away from the white background and trimmed it even with the edge of the background white block.  The remaining white background was then reattached using a 1/4" seam allowance.  It is important to note that not all my initial slices were parallel, but I was careful to stay on either side of the pressed line.

Once I finished inserting pairs of floating red strips, it was time to make intersecting slices to complete my X's.  Again, I would aim to center the red strip and use a 1/4" seam allowance.  It was at this point that I then realized that inserting 1" strips makes it so much easier to align the two ends of the X to give the illusion of overlapping bars.  Intersections tend to get distorted when you insert anything other than 1" wide.  So chose to trim down the second set of floating strips to 1" (* referenced in my cutting instructions).

Once all the blocks were assembled, I had plenty of wiggle room to center the Xs within the seam allowance and trim down to the three requested block sizes.  And as you can see, the blocks can then be assembled into a variety of interesting configurations!

As of this date, The 70,273 Project is in its 32nd week and has already received 4,144 blocks and 5 quilt tops have been pieced (with a few already quilted/bound).  Jeanne is committed to keeping track and give proper credit to all the contributors and has provided a Provenance Form to include with your donated blocks.  On the form, you have the option to indicate who the blocks were made in memory or honor of.
Blocks Dedicated to Special Olympic Athletes

As I worked on my blocks, I reflected on my 10+ years as a volunteer Swim Coach for Special Olympics (both in NY and here in CA) where I was blessed to work with so many amazing athletes who were diagnosed with a variety of developmental and physical disabilities that likely would have yielded a red X in 1940-1941.  Despite their disabilities, each of these athletes live life with such courage, compassion, competition and a great sense of humor.  And while I was there to help teach them new swimming techniques and skills, I am so thankful for all that they taught me about life, friendship and optimism.  I hope these blocks help to raise awareness about individuals with disabilities and their many positive contributions to our community.  Therefore, I dedicate my blocks to all the wonderful Special Olympic athletes that have touched my life.   

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Decorative Stitch Sampler

Like most quilters, I have two sewing machines, each equipped with an impressive arsenal of decorative and utility stitches.  Yet...most of my projects involved basic straight stitching and the occasional zig zag/satin stitch!

In my new workshop, Walking Foot WOW!, we'll explore using some of these decorative stitches to create beautiful, modern quilted texture...all using our walking foot!  All of my class samples were stitched on my Bernina 820, and I was sure to document all my settings (stitch number, length and width) for future reference.  However, I will be using my Brother nx450Q for teaching/travel, so I was sure to stitch up a sampler to use as reference on the various decorative stitches and settings.
All My Scientific Notations for My Many Experiments Using Different Stitches and Settings
This will be a great teaching tool, as well as helpful reference for future quilted projects.  I was lucky that I happened to have a spare quilt sandwich on hand, but I could have easily used a fat quarter of fabric and some scrap batting.  Starting at one side, I used a Micron black permanent marker to note the different stitches and stitch number along the top of the sandwich.  Below, I would begin stitching a straight line (using a contrasting Aurifil thread).  I would stitch an inch or so, pause to make a tick mark and note the current settings (stitch length and width) before making any adjustments to the next section of stitching.  I made sure to change only one setting at a time (stitch width or stitch length), so I could see all the different variations.  This particular sampler focused on 7 or 8 stitches, and took 15-20 minutes max to complete.

It is important to note that any changes in batting, fabric and/or thread used may alter the appearance of stitches produced.  So it is strongly recommended that you test your stitching on a practice quilt sandwich using identical fabrics, batting and threads used in your finished quilt.

And if you are curious as to how these stitches will be incorporated into quilted designs, there just happens to be a few spots open in my upcoming 10/8 Walking Foot WOW! class through Scruffy Quilts Quilt Shop in San Mateo CA.  Be sure to reserve your spot soon so you can join the fun!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quilt Inspired Walk About

Morning Mutt Butts
Susie Q, Panda & I just love starting out mornings off with a walk around the neighborhood.  They are busy using their noses to explore and ever on the look out for squirrels.  Meanwhile, this daily ritual is my opportunity to get in a short workout, reflect on the day ahead and admire my beautiful surroundings.  Yesterday I woke up not feeling so well, and was very tempted to skip the morning walk entirely.  But Susie Q and Panda's morning joy in anticipation of their walk motivated me to put on my sneakers and their walking gear and at least do a short walk.  The first block or two were rough going, and I was very tempted to turn back for home.  But I am so glad that I persisted as within a block or two, we soon found our stride and I started to feel better.  I also decided to take a few photographs along the walk, and clearly quilting was on my brain, as many of the pictures taken were inspired by quilting!

I was in awe at how many quilting grids were just a step away:  rail fences, checkerboards, 9-patches and blocks surrounded by sashing strips!
Quilting Grids
Of course, some of the grids were much more intricate featuring octagons, circles and other geometric patterns.
Geometric Gridwork
Every few blocks, I would encounter an alternate grid layout that required me to pause and study the pattern from different angles in attempt to decipher the repeating pattern.  Once I cracked the pattern, I would then try to figure out how it could be recreated and pieced with fabric!  
Alternate Grid Layouts
Several photographs were reminiscent of modern quilt trends:  improvisational slab blocks, chevrons and woven patterns.
Modern Designs
Of course, I also spied some quilting filler designs:  pebbles, micro pebbles and on point gridwork.
Free Motion Filler Designs!
While we oftentimes turn to quilt books, magazines and the internet for quilting inspiration, I encourage you to explore your own neighborhoods for possible quilt layouts and designs!  Your next quilt top or design could be right there at your feet!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Free Motion Mastery in a Month: Assembling Blocks and Sashing Strips

The Free Motion Mastery in a Month with RaNae Merrill continues!  This week, I was busy assembling my quilted Russian Doll blocks and green sashing units together using 1" and 1.75" strips of solid yellow fabric.  This is a very new technique for me, and while I understood the theory of the assembly process, there were still a few details that were a bit fuzzy for me.  Luckily several of the women in my small quilt group were very familiar with this technique and able to provide some reassurance, advice, tips & tricks to help me overcome some of my initial trepidation.  There was a bit of a learning curve as I tackled the first row of blocks and sashing units.  But once that row was complete, I had figured out the process and was able to chain piece the remaining rows for increased efficiency.  By the next day, all my rows were assembled and it was time to attach them to one another.  Lots of pins were used, abused and ultimately had to be discarded as the bulky layers caused some strain and warping.  However, the pinning was very much necessary in order to align all the yellow strips.
Blocks & Sashing Strips Assembled
Here are some detail shots of the quilted texture, which is even more fabulous in person (especially to the touch!!!)
Details of Quilted Textures
The beauty of this technique is that you end up with a reversible quilt!  So should you get sick of the precious red Russian Dolls, you can simply flip it over and get a very different colorway!
Reverse Side
Next up is to quilt my borders, attach them and complete with binding (which I have already cut/pieced and pressed!)  I sketched a few individual motifs based on the red Russian Doll print, but still working out how best to combine them into a cohesive border design that will wrap around all four borders.  Stay tuned for the final reveal!!
Brainstorming Border Quilting Designs

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Meadow Mystery Quilt Along 2016: Half Square Triangles and Block 6

This month's Meadow Mystery Quilt Along instructions involved lots of half square triangles...56 (not that I wasn't counting!!).  Luckily the instructions included the option to oversize them and then trim them down to the 4.5" size needed.  Once they were complete, one set was used to assemble Block 6.  The Alison Glass purple batik I chose has a gradated density of floral motifs across the width of fabric.  I sorted the pieced HSTs accordingly and placed the most dense pink/orange/yellow flowers towards the large orange triangle with the all purple swatches at the opposite corner.  
Block 6

I am pretty excited to have four finished blocks after the first month of piecing.  And if this is Block 6, we will have at least 5 other blocks to piece in the coming months.  Looking forward to seeing what October's instructions will reveal...
September's Finished Units...awaiting October's Addition