Monday, October 31, 2016

This Fall's Hottest Colors

Wake Us When the Sunny Weather Returns
We are finally getting some much needed rain here in Northern California.  And while Panda & Susie Q pouted a bit about having to go out in the rain, I celebrated the overcast weather with a fun dye party!!  Two friends came over this weekend and we took over the kitchen and dining room as our dyeing laboratory.  We each turned into mad scientists as we created our colorful potions and concocted our own beautiful hand dyed creations.  



Abracadabra!!  Hocus Pocus!!
For this dye session, I wanted to conduct a few scientific experiments of my own.

1.  Experiment with new Prepared for Dye fabrics.
I really love the drape and quality of Dharma's Pimatex Cotton.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of a glitch with manufacturing over the summer and they were out of stock for several months.  After some initial panic, I took this opportunity to explore some new PDF cottons by buying 5 yards of  60" Poplin (based on a suggestion from a quilt instructor) and 5 yards of Mercerized Combed Cotton Broadcloth (after consulting with a member of the Dharma customer service team).  One of my friends had an entire bolt of PDF 45" To Dye For PDF fabric made by EE Schenck Company to try as well.

I really liked the soft drape and feel of the Poplin and found it to be very comparable to the Pimatex.  However, I found the Broadcloth to be heavier in weight, almost comparable to canvas cloth.  So while I suspect it may be too thick for quilting, it may make for some really lovely tote bags.  It did dye beautifully, although it required a bit more effort to press flat.  I found that the To Dye For fabric was a looser weave but soft and draped beautifully.  
To Dye For Rainbow
2.  Try Creating Hand Dyed Mandalas
I've been wanting to hand dye some mandalas to use as a foundation for some whole cloth quilts.  After watching several online tutorials to figure out how best to fold and manipulate the fabric, I decided to give it a whirl.  I was pleased with the overall designs (but will be conducting some future experiments re:  color combinations and trying to achieve more vibrant colors).
Hand Dyed Mandalas
3.  Experiment with Rinse Cycles
Since I use so many colors, I was curious whether they react with one another during the rinse process.  Typically I wait 12+ hours for my fabric to batch before rinsing them.  I squeeze out any excess dyes and then throw them all into the washing machine with some Blue Dawn and do several wash/rinse cycles on both hot and cold until the water is clear.  I had a leftover fat quarter of the Broadcloth Cotton that I ripped into 3 pieces.  One was my Control and never entered the washing machine.  The second swatch was my Experiment #1 and went into the washing machine before all the other hand dyed fabrics were added.  The last swatch, Experiment #2, was added after the first full rinse cycle.

As to be expected my control remained bright white.  Experiment #1 fabric did pick up a few light blotches of dye here and there.  Experiment #2 fabric was very similar to the control fabric and was almost impossible to differentiate, other than feeling a bit more textured after the washing/drying process.  So my take home lesson is to hold off on adding any lighter colored fabrics until after the 1st rinse cycle.  
Left to Right:  Control, Experiment #1 and Experiment #2
Would you like to see my other fun creations?!?  Here is a sampling of my hand dyed goodies:
My recent Fall walk-abouts certainly inspired much of my color palette as I incorporated lots of warm reds, oranges, golds and even browns.
Fall Inspired Harvest
Celebrating Brown

 To break up all the warm colors, I did whip up some cool colors:  purples, blues and greens.
Cool Creations
My mother and brother had sent some white shirts out for me to transform during my next dye party.  My mother requested some warm colors (middle) and my brother had no special requests.  I sent along some pics as a preview in anticipation of shipping to Florida.  My brother liked his one shirt as it seemed retro.  I agree as I thought it had the illusion of a bowling shirt!
Tye Dye T-Shirts
Next week I am looking forward to visiting the Dharma store en route to a teaching engagement!!  I already placed an order for pick up (more Pimatex along with some fun new colors of dye), and I suspect I may find some new goodies to add to my order.  I can't wait for my next Dye session!!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Challenge Yourself! with Bay Area Modern Quilt Group

This past weekend, I presented my "Challenge Yourself!" Lecture/Trunk Show for the Bay Area Modern Quilt Group.  I was really excited to see so many familiar faces in attendance, both recognizable from when I was a member of BAMQG as well some crossover from other quilt guilds.  If you've never attended a BAMQG meeting...you must!  They are an energetic group who manage to pack a lot of activities into the membership year, including lots of philanthropic work!!
Challenge Yourself Lecture/Trunk Show
In my talk, I strive to encourage participation in quilt challenges as I discuss fears, benefits, tips & tricks while sharing my own experiences participating in 40+ challenges.  In many ways, I felt like I was preaching to the choir, as BAMQG routinely offers challenges for its members.  In fact, during the board officer announcements portion of the meeting, they provided friendly reminders for current challenge that is due in November.  So then I adjusted my message and encouraged them to consider entering some of the more traditional challenges which could greatly benefit from the addition of more modern quilt designs!!  

Interestingly enough, I credit BAMQG for being an early influence as I began my love of quilt challenges as I participated in 4 different guild challenges. 

The first was a fabric challenge where the guild provided free fabric from the Lotta Jansdotter Echo collection and we were to create something for ourselves.  I had seen a number of great sewing pouches online and set out to create my own quilter's emergency kit that features my own block designs on the one panel.  Inside, I made pockets for to organize all my tools & notions, as well as a small first aide pocket to store band-aid (which has come in very handy for both myself and my fellow quilters).  This pouch has been my go to for retreats, workshops and sew days, and has received quite a bit of attention from teachers/students.
Quilter's Emergency Kit
We also did a scrap pillow swap where each member packed up some leftover scraps into a bag that were then redistributed and the recipient used them to make a pillow for their partner.  I chose to highlight my partner's scraps in a Cathedral Window block turned into a pillow.  
Scrap Pillow Swap
Another challenge was designing and piecing a block using the guild colors (teal, tangerine and white) for use in a guild banner.  I incorporated the guild's logo into the center of my wonky star.  It was such fun to see this little star incorporated into the finished banner that made its debut with the BAMQG Exhibit within the SCVQA Quilt Show.   
Design a Block Challenge
One of the last challenges I completed through BAMQG was a modern Wholecloth Quilt Challenge.  The challenge organizer reached out to Aurifil thread, who generously donated a case of Aurifil thread that was distributed to participants.  At the time, my quilting skills were limited, but I created a zig zag colorwheel featuring echo lines that were all stitched with the use of my walking foot and blue painter's tape.  Seeing so many beautifully stitched designs done by fellow members really motivated me to step up my quilting game and learn how to free motion quilt.
Modern Wholecloth Quilt Challenge
It is always fun to see how much progress I've made as a quilter, many thanks to being part of wonderful quilting groups like BAMQG, as well as participation in quilt guild challenges.

My sincere thanks to...
  • Joelle, BAMQG president, for being a wonderful host and providing the LCD projector
  • Angela, BAMQG Workshop Coordinator, for coordinating all the logistics
  • Sarah, for helping to capture some pretty funny pictures from my lecture/trunk show as well as helping to hold up some of the larger quilts
And I look forward to resuming the fun with BAMQG on November 12th, as I teach my "Walking Foot WOW!"  Rest assured to those who have signed up for this fun workshop:  our finished wholecloth quilt samplers will be way more exciting and modern than the Zig Zag quilt above!!  ;-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Falling in Love with Red & Green

We're not gonna "fall" for silly ruse this next year...
I often get asked what I miss most about living in the northeast.  After being quick to respond that I do not miss the cold winters and/or snow...I then list off a few experiences that make me feel a bit homesick at times:
  • Falling asleep during a good lightening and thunder storm
  • Seeing lightening bugs sparkle at night
  • Stunning fall foliage display of brilliant colors.   
Northern California simply cannot complete with the breathtaking autumn displays offered within New England, but there are still some lovely displays to be found if you take the time to look a bit closer...

Luckily, our morning walks provided the perfect opportunity to admire, celebrate and capture some of these glorious fall colors.  And while Panda & Susie Q were initially excited to join the fun...their interest quickly started to fade after I repeatedly interrupted their explorations to pause for photographs along our walk.

I should also note that I am not a Master Gardener, so I will not even attempt to identify the particular species of foliage observed...but simply focus on sharing some of the beautiful colors and compositions captured with my cell phone.

Speaking of colors, I had hoped to capture the full spectrum of fall colors (red, orange, yellow, lime and some brown).  However, as our morning adventures continued, I was surprised by the overwhelming frequency of red/green pairing observed throughout our neighborhood.  And well...since Christmas is officially two month's away...let's celebrate all the beautiful red & green combinations.

There are still quite a few blooms to be found here in beautiful San Jose.  Here are just a sampling of some of the beautiful red (and pink) flowers that are still in bloom. 
Fanciful Fall Flowers
As the flowers mature, they will often result in the formation of fruit (which I did not attempt to taste).  
Fall Fruits
And for all you leaf peepers out there...there were lots and lots of beautiful leaf displays to be found all around including

....Radiating designs that travel out from a central point
Radiating Red & Green Leaves
...Linear designs that often resulted in a gradation of color (gotta love my ombres!!)
Linear Leaf Displays
...Explosions of red and green color
Color All Around
...Beautiful textures
More Fall Foliage
...Interaction of hardcape and softscape elements for more textural interest
Hard & Soft, Red & Green
...fallen leaves along the sidewalks and streets
Fallen Foliage
...and the beauty of our drought-friendly succulents
Super Drought-friendly Succulents 
I hope you will have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful fall weather and explore your own neighborhoods for beautiful and all-natural red and green art arrangements.  Happy Fall Y'all!!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

PIQF 2016

Last week was back to back quilting adventures with my Las Vegas visit followed by Pacific International Quilt Festival.  After my lecture/trunk show, I returned to my hotel room to find text messages from fellow guild members congratulating me on my Honorable Mention ribbon awarded to my "Orange You Glad I Got the Blues?" quilt.  So even though I was a little tired from waking up early to catch my return flight home, upon landing in San Jose, Doug and I grabbed a quick lunch and then proceeded to the Santa Clara Convention Center to check out the show and see my quilts.       
Quilts!  Quilts!  Quilts!
I was excited to have three quilts on display this year:

  • Orange You Glad I Got the Blues--Wall Hanging category (top)
  • Rhthym & Blues--Wall Hanging category (bottom left)
  • Always Follow Your Heart--New Modern Quilt Competition/New Quilts of Northern California (bottom right)

There were so many amazing quilts on display...and I spent almost 3 days walking up and down the aisles admiring and photographing so many wonderful designs, color combinations, techniques and stunning quilting motifs.

In addition to all the aisles of quilt exhibits, there was the merchant's mall packed with vendors.  I showed great restraint but did pick up a few packages of needles, batting and of course some fun new fabrics including some modern prints, more luscious Cherrywood solids and Kaffe prints.  
PIQF Purchases
This is the first year I did not register for any workshops, but I was sure to treat myself to a ticket for Laura Wasilowski's humorous, musical and colorful lecture:  The Not So Accurate History of Fusing.  I took her Woven Flower Baskets workshop last year and she is such a wonderful artist, teacher and entertainer.

After 3 consecutive days of attending PIQF...I finally reached my saturation point.  On my last day, I picked up on some final quilting inspiration compliments of the adjacent parking garage!  Each level had brightly colored half-square triangles along the various support columns, stairwells and elevators!  I missed the basement and top levels, but was sure to capture these images as I made my way from the convention center back to my parked vehicle.
Lots of Quilting Inspiration!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meadow Mystery Quilt Along 2016: Hourglass and Half-Hourglass Blocks

October's instructions for the Meadow Mystery Quilt Along involved 4 Hourglass and 48 Half-Hourglass blocks.  I was glad that I opted to add the extra 1/4" to all my initial units, even if it involves lots of trimming once the blocks were assembled.  It is a small price to pay for assurance in knowing that my blocks are all 4.5".  
Pieced 4.5" Hourglass and Half-Hourglass Blocks
Looking forward to November's instructions!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Viva Las Vegas!

Poker Face!
This past weekend, I rolled the dice and flew out to Las Vegas to deliver my first "Challenge Yourself!" lecture/trunk show for the Las Vegas Quilters Guild.  Beginner's luck was definitely on my side as my hostesses, Sue and Linda, were absolutely amazing and showed me all around Las Vegas.  Our first stop was to check out the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign where Elvis was on hand for photograph opportunities.

Next up was visiting the Bellagio and their Conservatory & Botanical Garden "Harvest Show."   Here we were transported into a fall-themed wonderland complete with ginormous pumpkins & gourds, giant floral acorns, talking trees, raccoon & squirrel mobiles, glass leaves water fountains and more!!
Go Big or Go Home!
We scored big in locating several art installations throughout the casinos along the strip.  There was a large "Love" sculpture on display within the Venetian, several Chihuly glass displays both within the Conservatory as well as in the Bellagio's lobby, and a drool worthy glass chocolate fountain.
What Happens in Las Vegas, Stays in Las Vegas
With all this art on display, I almost missed out on the quilt inspiration that was right there at my footsteps.  Luckily I happened to capture these fabulous casino and hotel carpet designs that may just call for a future quilt design!    
High Roller
Upon landing in Las Vegas, the flight attendant welcomed us to "Lost Wages."  And while I managed not to break the bank visiting any of the casino tables or slot machines, I sure did hit the jackpot visiting this absolutely fabulous quilt shop "Sew Yeah!"  There were so many temptations as I found an impressive selection of fabrics in all colors and styles.  I showed great restraint and scored a few fun fabrics to add to my stash.
Sin City!!
The biggest payoff was interacting with all the lovely guild members during their guild meeting.  Wow!  What a warm & welcoming group!!   There are approximately 125 members (with several new members in attendance) and I was just in awe at the energy and enthusiasm of their board and membership!  They recently hosted their first quilt show and had several quilt classes/workshops coming up.  But I was most impressed with their commitment to community service as they showed off these handmade bags that were filled with toiletries for the Domestic Violence shelter, quilts donated to the Sheriff's office to comfort youth and gorgeous quilt donations.

With all their positive energy, it is no wonder that I had a lot of fun presenting my "Challenge Yourself!" lecture/trunk show and sharing my adventures in Quilt Challenges with their membership.  I enjoyed introducing 20+ of my quilt entries during the trunk show portion and watching their reactions as they oohed and ahhed over the designs and quilting.  Even more encouraging was their sincere curiosity, openess and enthusiasm about participating in quilt challenges.  Several of the members approached me afterwards indicating that they are looking forward to checking out some of the challenges I highlighted in my talk.  The icing on the cake was an email I received several days later from my hostess/Program Chair of the guild announcing that the guild will be introducing their first guild quilt challenge in January!!  I am thrilled to see such enthusiasm for quilt challenges and can't wait to see what their talented members creates for this first quilt challenge!!!
You've got to know when to hold 'em...Know when to fold 'em...
Many thanks to Sue and Linda for being fabulous hostesses and taking such great care of me during my visit.  Special thanks to fellow guild member Joni, for recommending me to the Las Vegas Quilters guild.  And a big thank you to the entire Las Vegas Quilters Guild for being so welcoming and enthusiastic!!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

MQU 10x10 Challenge

In honor of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine's 10 year anniversary, they sponsored a 10x10 challenge.  For this challenge, the rules were fairly simple:  "Create a quilt with 10"x10" finished measurements, including the binding, that refers to the number 10 in some way."

For my entry, I wanted to incorporate Xs, which are the roman numeral for 10.  I began by laying out a grid of background squares and rectangles...ten to be exact.  I planned on inserting mostly white strips into each square with a few pops of color (lime, orange, magenta and teal).
Improvisational Xs
I was so excited about this design that I dived right in and somehow forgot to add the seam allowances necessary to achieve a 10"x10" design!  No worries...we'll consider this a design opportunity!  So I set out to add borders in order to meet the finished size requirement.  

I was delighted to find this bubbly print in my stash that amazingly had all the same colors:  grey, white, teal, lime, orange and magenta.  I added some solid black flanges and created a tic-tac-toe grid (seemed appropriate given all the X blocks).  I went to layer it with batting and backing, but held off on pin basting it.  The next morning I returned to my studio with fresh eyes and just wasn't as excited about my mini quilt.  I felt like all my Xs were lost in the sea of bubbles.  However, I did like how the black strips created great contrast with my center blocks.  I wondered how it might look with all solid black borders and used Microsoft Paint program to do a quick mock up by copying/pasting my X blocks onto a black background square.  This was such a vast improvement and I set out to immediately rip out and remove all the borders and attach the new black borders. 
Border Options
As I was attaching the black border strips, I began contemplating quilting designs.  I thought it would be fun to extend the X design into the borders.  I used blue painter's tape to outline the X extensions.  Matching Aurifil 50 weight threads were selected to densely stitch straight match stick lines in white and circular motif for each of the four colorful Xs.  The quilting really pops against the solid black background.  Black Aurifil thread was used to stitch a zig zag meander throughout the rest of the black borders.  
Before and After Quilting
Detail of Quilting
When it came time to trim up my quilt, I rotated the ruler a little to create wonky borders.  Faced edges were used to continue the stitched lines out into the edges of my miniature quilt.  

"Happy Birthday Kisses & Wishes," finished 10" x 10"
Artist Statement:  "X marks the spot with this miniature quilt celebrating MQU’s 10th Anniversary.  X is the roman numeral for 10, and it has historically been used to represent kisses and affection.  The ten blocks were improvisationally pieced using the slice & insert technique.    Dense quilting in matching thread colors help carry the X motifs out into the black border and into the faced edges."

Chosen finalists will be notified on October 24th...wish me luck!!  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Walking Foot WOW! Wrap Up Celebration

WOW!!  Look at all the smiling faces from today's Walking Foot WOW! class at Scruffy Quilts quilt shop.
Smiling, Happy Quilters (minus a few camera-shy students) Proudly Displaying their Fantastic Quilted Samplers
These fun, fabulous & fearless quilters doodled and stitched their way through 16+ quilting designs that can all be accomplished with a walking foot:  lines, rays, starbursts, stars, grids, matchstick, decorative stitches and spirals.  It was great fun watching as each student personalized their 9-patch sampler by choosing different designs and oftentimes adding their own personal touches to the designs.  I especially love it when a student adapts the basic designs and transforms it entirely by asking "What If?" and/or combining concepts from previous designs to create an exciting new texture!!  There was a flurry of energy, enthusiasm and excitement as the day progressed.  I must confess that I just kept circling around the classroom admiring (and oftentimes petting) their gorgeously quilted blocks!
Look at all that Modern Quilted Texture that Looks & Feels Amazing!!  
I have several more Walking Foot WOW! classes/workshops coming up in my teaching schedule (and more to be added in the new year), so be sure to check out my website so you too can join the Walking Foot WOW! fun!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Modern Mandalas: Hot Pink Prototype

It should be no secret that I am fascinated with mandala designs.  My mandala madness first began with free motion quilted mandalas for Project Quilting (Mystical Mandala & Crayon Etched Mandala) followed by some Mini Mandalas.  Then I experimented with some fusible appliqued mandalas for my Cherrywood Lion King Challenge entry, Circle of Life.  

And now, I unveil my newest mandala design:  Modern Mandalas!!!  Below is "Hot Pink Prototype," my first attempt at piecing a modern mandala.  I just love how the strips of solid black and the zebra print sparkle against the hot pink background!
Hot Pink Prototype, 29"x29"
A variety of looping designs were densely free-motion quilted into the hot pink background, adding contrast and loft to the pieced design.  
Detail of Quilting
For my quilt back, I found a half yard cut of this super fun zebra print and a large floral to match.
Yikes...More Zebra Stripes!
I am really in love with these new Modern Mandalas and hope you are too...as there may just be a few more Modern Mandala quilt designs on the near horizon!
In Love with Modern Mandalas

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Free Motion Mastery in a Month: Quilted Borders & Finish

This marks the conclusion of my adventures with RaNae Merrill's Free-Motion Mastery in a Month.  And for those keeping track: Yes...it's taken me two months to finish!  But hey!  Better late than never!!  So what was the hold up?!?  Borders!

RaNae instructed us to use solid fabrics for our borders and to stitch motifs inspired by our inspiration fabric.  I was able to fill an entire page in my sketchbook with designs and motifs inspired by my fabric, but kept getting stuck when it was time to put them together in a cohesive design that would ultimately frame my 9 patch blocks.  This is probably why I rarely add borders to any of my quilts...as I never know how best to quilt them!
Floral Corner Designs (Left) and Border Designs (Right)
After much procrastination, I decided to start small by tackling the corner block designs first.  I had sketched a floral design that would fit nicely.  I began with the yellow center designs and then added the red petals.  To help the petals pop, I stitched the background with a dense stippling in a matching light blue.  Now that they were complete, I returned my focus to the large borders (I was able to get two border lengths from each panel).  Several feather motifs had been considered, but failed to really interest me.  Running out of ideas, I decided to pull out some 1" blue painter's tape and subdivide the borders into striped sections that were 1", 3" and 5" wide.  As I was outline stitching these areas, filler designs and motifs were swirling in my head.  I began by filling in the 1" sections with figure eights in a matching blue Aurifil thread.  Large daisy designs inspired by the nesting doll print surrounded by more dense stippling were stitched into two of the large 5" sections.  Another large floral all over design filled in the remaining 5" sections.  One of the designs provided by RaNae made for the perfect stem and leaf design to fill in all the 3" sections!  
Detail Image of the Glorious Quilted Textures in the Blocks, Sashing and Borders
Once the borders were stitched, they were added to the inner design using thin strips of solid yellow.  While I found the assembly process to be a bit awkward and cumbersome at times, I do like how it creates a completely reversible quilt!  Here is a shot of the back of the quilt featuring another Russian Doll print and brighter green in the sashing strips.
Reverse Side of Quilt
Look at all that wonderful quilted texture!!  I just love how the light hits and creates so much depth!  I keep finding myself running my hands over the surface of the quilt.  I greatly enjoyed learning new quilting designs as well as learning how to combine them into original designs.  Last but not least, it has been two months since I've used my Bernina Stitch Regulator!  I find that I am stitching fairly consistent stitches and having less skipped stitches as a result!

Many thanks to RaNae Merrill and all the other quilters that participated in this online laboratory!  This little beauty is heading out to RaNae in New York City to be photographed and hopefully included in RaNae's newest book.
"Russian Doll Delight" finished 50"x50"