Tuesday, October 17, 2017

2017 PIQF Recap Part 1: Threads of Resistance Exhibit

This past weekend was Pacific International Quilt Festival.  With over 800 quilts, 300 vendors and 25 Quilt Artists offering workshops & lectures, I spent the better portion of the past 5 days at the Santa Clara Convention Center soaking up lots of quilting inspiration!  In the next few posts, I will recap some of my highlights from the show and will kick off with the Threads of Resistance exhibit.

I was honored to have my RE$I$TAN¢E included in this incredibly powerful exhibit. 
While I had previewed all the artwork via the website, blog and book, I was in total awe upon seeing the exhibit in person.  Photographs simply do not do justice to any of the individual pieces, nor the exhibit in its entirety.   
Threads of Resistance Exhibit
Left Top:    "The Disgrace--Words and Deeds" by Barbara Brandel, "Equal Means Equal" by Jessica Levitt, "Nevertheless, She Persisted" by Dawn Allen and "Priviledged Times" by Martha Wolfe.
Left Middle:  "Zahra, Age 5" by Sandra Bruce, "Capitol Guns" by Ellen November, "The Kiss" by Maryte Collard and "RE$I$TAN¢E" by Mel Beach
Left Bottom: "Liberty Marches" by Susan Bianchi, "Don't Shoot (Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes)" by Sheila Riess, "My Flag, Our Colors" by Mary Bolton, "Poisonous Words" by Susan Brubaker Knapp and "Untitled" by Melanie Testa
Right Top:   "#notnormal" by Kristin La Flamme, "Equality" by Kerri Green,  "Death of Science" by Phyllis Cullen and "What Does an American Look Like?" by Deb Cashatt & Kris Sazaki.
Right Bottom: "A Day to Remember" by Emily Robertson, "Hands Off!" by Karen Musgrave and "My Body, My Rules" by Sue Bleiweiss.
Moreover, photographs do not capture the power of this exhibit to engage the audience.  Any time I visited the exhibit, I would always find a gathering of attendees viewing the exhibit--oftentimes moving in closer to read the Artist Statements, study the details and to reflect on the message.  Yes there were several attendees that opted to skip the exhibit entirely and/or walk through at a brisk pace, which was to be expected given the controversy of the exhibit and the pieces included.  The Mancuso Show organizers hung signage letting attendees know that there were controversial subject matter that may not be appropriate for young viewers.  However, the overwhelmingly positive response served as confirmation for the importance of this exhibit to be included and to the significance of the messages contained within each piece.  Many attendees freely shared that this was the best exhibit of PIQF in years and that some came to PIQF just to see the Threads of Resistance exhibit.  Others expressed sincere thanks and appreciation for giving voice to what they've been experiencing this past year.  I overheard two men who commented "These are some angry women!" and went onto elaborate that they wholeheartedly agreed that women have so much to be angry given the current Administration.

16 of the 63 artwork included with the traveling exhibit were created by California Artists.  Many of us were able to participate in Saturday's Artist Gathering.  Jamie Fingal, one of The Artist's Circle members flew up from Southern California to experience the exhibit firsthand.  She presented each of the artists with a Threads of Resistance button that I wore proudly.  As Jamie welcomed everyone and shared the story of how The Artist's Circle formed and created the Threads of Resistance exhibit.  As we toured the exhibit, each attending Artist shared a few personal remarks about their piece.  For those that were unable to attend, I highly recommend listening to the Artist recordings posted to the Threads of Resistance blog.

Like many of the other Artists, working on "RE$I$TAN¢E" served as a way for me to channel my frustration, anger and confusion.  It also provided therapeutic benefits as it gave me some semblance of control and purpose given the events of the past year.  Experiencing the exhibit first hand and in the company of some truly amazing Artists gave me Hope for a more compassionate future.  It also ignited my resilience and courage.

My sincere thanks again to The Artist Circle for establishing the Threads of Resistance exhibit.  Special thanks to David and Peter Mancuso (and the entire Mancuso Quilt Show Staff) for inviting Threads of Resistance to be part of Pacific International Quilt Festival and their unwavering support of both the exhibit and the Artists.  Many thanks to my fellow Artisans for their comraderie and support.  Last but not least, special thanks to all those who visited the exhibit.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Walking Foot Fun & Quilting Inspiration Down in Monterey

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of visiting with the Monterey Peninsula Quilters Guild for a lovely 2.5 days in beautiful Pacific Grove, CA.  I stayed in the historic Centrella Inn, where I was a short walk away from fun restaurants, shopping (including Back Porch Fabrics--which I could see from my bedroom window and was sure to visit!!!) and the ocean.
Lovely Sights Courtesy of Pacific Grove
As I explored Pacific Grove, I soon realized there was quite a bit of quilting inspiration all around, especially at the ground level...
Fabulous Quilting Inspiration All Around and on the Ground!
Quite a few of these linear designs fit in nicely with my Walking Foot WOW! workshop designs!!

I had Monday morning/afternoon off to explore the Monterey area and had a chance to explore the Garland Ranch Regional Park for a walk about.
Garland Ranch Regional Park Welcome & Messages Found on Benches
As I wandered the park, I found beautiful lines, patterns, textures and shapes!
Garland Park Lines, Pattern & Shapes
And I also found some lovely color combinations compliments of Mother Nature.  I am really drawn to the red/green color combination and loved this colorful shrub (below left) near the Visitor's center.  I was also drawn to these beautiful red/green leaves (below right) I kept finding along the trails.  Luckily I kept my distance and only took photographs as I quickly recognized it as Poison Oak!  I also loved the subtle beauty of this one tree's neutral palette bark (below center).
Colorful Inspiration
My dear friend Kathrin arranged for an afternoon Quilt Studio Tour around Carmel Valley, starting with catching up at her fabulous home studio!!!  From there, we visited Mary Parsonage's home studio which overlooks her family's vineyard.  After a mini quilt show (including several quilts made as part of quilt challenges), we had a chance to visit the wine production area and visit the Tasting Room which is adorned with Mary's quilts/art (which are also featured on each bottle's label).  One last studio tour of Janyce's home, which included a bed turning featuring some pretty spectacular quilts, many of which were pieced and/or quilted by hand.  I just loved all the love and details that Janyce lovingly stitched into each gorgeous quilt!! 

After the Studio Tours, we were off to meet up with more guild members for dinner (aka Happy Hour) and then off to the guild meeting where I presented my Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show.  As I was setting up, several of the quilters from the previous day's Walking Foot WOW! workshop popped over to show off their quilted samplers & Mod Molas!!  Thank goodness too, because in the fun and excitement of the workshop, I completely forgot to take any pictures!!
Walking Foot WOW Samplers (including some Mod Molas!)
After my talk, many of the members proudly displayed their samplers as part of Show and Tell!!  I was delighted to see so many had progressed from the day before into finished and bound quilts!!  Each is truly a work of art and is filled with gorgeous quilted texture!!
Walking Foot WOW! Show and Tell--Special Thanks to Guild Photographer C. Toth for Sharing Pictures
WOW!!  What an absolutely lovely visit filled with friendship, inspiration and fun!  Thank you Monterey Peninsula Quilters Guild!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

More Walking Foot WOW!!

Last weekend, I taught back to back Walking Foot WOW! workshops, starting with Scruffy Quilts on Saturday.   These quilters sure had fun adding beautiful, modern quilted textures to their samplers.
Walking Foot WOW! Quilters and Their In-Progress Samplers
Everyone came with basic quilt sandwiches, but with a little encouragement, they all opted to add a surprise layer of fabric to experiment with the Mod Mola option (luckily we were at a quilt shop where we were surrounded by plenty of fun fabric options). 

Betsie gets bonus points for being the first to send me a picture of her finished sampler complete with some fabulous cutwork!!  She snuck a Tula Pink ombre fabric underneath a cream colored solid for a super fun reveal!!  And Betsie reports that she anticipates quilting her next project with a walking foot, which is just music to my ears!!
Betsie's Finished Walking Foot WOW! Sampler with Mod Mola Cutwork!
Stay tuned for more Walking Foot WOW!!!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Welcome to My Happy Place (and a fun Giveaway!!)

Welcome to my happy place...aka my quilt studio.  This is where I happily create fiber art, plan new projects and play with fabric!  Many of the furnishings were sourced from one of my other happy places:  IKEA!!!  Let me show you around... 
Command Central
I like to refer to this hub as Command Central.  There are a few features that make this space so special:
  • To the left is my office space where I keep my computer, printer & quilt-related files (ie.  Sketchbooks, Upcoming Quilt Challenge Info, Teaching Engagements, Upcoming Quilt Shows, Sewing Machine Manuals, etc).  This is where I oftentimes respond to emails, write blog and/or facebook posts and research new quilting ideas.  We do not have cable, but I have a second monitor that connects to my laptop, so I can stream tv shows, movies, music, quilting classes as I sew.  It not only helps to pass the time as I work, but also to keep track of time worked (ie.  It took me 1 episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to piece 3 blocks and 2 Project Runway episodes to quilt half of my quilt top!)
  • In the very center is my Juki TL-2010Q Sewing Machine, which sits into an IKEA table top that Doug converted into a sewing table.  A second table extends the flat surface, provides support for larger quilts and is available for when friends come over to sew and/or I need to use my back up Brother Sewing Machine.  A small IKEA drawer unit slides underneath and contains many of my sewing machine accessories as well as some of my piecing and/or specialty threads (ie.  metallics, monofilament, etc).  
  • An IKEA Kitchen Cart was converted into a fabulous Ironing Station.  The drawers contain items that I regularly use for fusing and/or binding, and the shelves below store my various project bins (WIPs, UFOs and/or upcoming Quilt Challenge Fabrics)  Two rolling utility carts nestle underneath and stowe all my spray starch, irons, threads, pins, etc.   
  • Some of my favorite quilts, including my Leah Day Free Motion Fillers Sampler hangs nearby providing quilting inspiration.  If I am ever stuck for quilting ideas, I will glance over at the 65+ designs that are stitched into each of those blocks.
Fabric, Cutting & Design Station
Next up is another hub of activity related to fabric pulls, preparation and quilt design:
  • This is where I store my curated collection of fabric.
  • My cutting station is converted from an IKEA Entertainment Center found at a thrift store.  Doug added casters underneath which add some height as well as make it easy for me to move around as needed.  A large cutting mat sits atop.  In the shelves and cabinets below, I store my large rulers, scraps, lightbox, fusible products, freezer paper, contact paper and more.
  • Hanging on the wall is an amazing wall unit with sliding doors that Doug and I built to store notions:  smaller rulers, templates, rotary rulers, blue painter's tape, etc.  Shelving on either side is available to store small jars containing pins, marking pens, small artwork and some fun little knickknacks.  Task lighting is mounted underneath to illuminate my cutting table.
  • My design wall hangs nearby (and is actually made out of an exterior rolling shade that is covered with a large flannel sheet)
  • More quilting inspiration is found above as there are several miniature fiber art displayed above the cabinet and hanging from an IKEA curtain wire using small clips.  
Reading Nook/Resource Center
The last stop on this virtual tour is my Reading Nook/Resource Center.
  • A large IKEA bookshelf contains my collection of quilt-related books/magazines, patterns, pre-cuts, kits and threads.  Above it is my new quilt/sampler storage sytem.
  • Two stacked drawer units are perfect for storing larger quilt projects:  quilt tops awaiting basting, pieced blocks, workshop supplies, fused fabrics along with a few UFOs.
  • A large IKEA gateleg table with drawers sits in the corner.  Doug built two large wooden chests to provide storage for larger items (ie. batting & travel supplies) and are upholstered to double as seating.  Once in a while I will sit there and sketch or read.  But usually the left bench is occupied by Susie Q, who loves to stare out the window (aka Doggie TV) and patrol the neighborhood for our postal woman!  Of course, I make sure to include a large plush dog bed for both Susie Q and Panda, as they tend to get bored of watching me sew for hours on end.
Space For My Studio Assistants On and Off Duty
My current studio set up and layout is the result of a lot of finetuning and experimentation.  I credit my productivity to an efficient layout and set up--as it allows me to spend more time creating!!  And I am always on the look out for new studio set up and organization ideas (feel free to check out my Studio Set Up Pinterest Board). 

The Give Away:
I absolutely love, love, love looking through Carolyn Woods' book:  Organizing Solutions for Every Quilter, as it is packed with pictures and ideas to create the sewing space of your dreams.  I recently picked up a spare (and very gently used) copy of this amazing book and I want to share the love by giving it away.  To be eligible, simply leave me a comment below and share what you love about your current creative space?  It can be anything that makes your sewing space special or inspiration for you.   

Would you like to double your chances of winning this fabulous book?!?  Be sure to read my upcoming October Newsletter that will focus on Organization and learn how you can also enter for a second chance of winning.  Not a subscriber?  Here is the link to sign up!

Book drawing is eligible to US residents (my sincere apologies to my friends abroad) and will take place on Sunday, October 15th (and will include some other fun goodies!!!)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Welcome to My Curated Collection of Fabrics...

Pile O' Unsorted Fabric
Whether you refer to it as your stash, a well curated fabric collection or Fable (Fabric Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy), we quilters love acquiring pretty new fabrics and most of us have a pretty extensive pile o' fabric at home.  So it's time to talk about organizing (aka curating) our fabrics! 

For me, organization helps me to

1.  Know what I already own
2.  Know where I can find a particular fabric when I need it
3.  Know what colors/values are missing in prepartion for my next FART (Fabric Accumulation and Reconnaissance Trip!!)

So allow me to introduce you to my Stash System...starting with yardage!   Confession time:  My fabric yardage is rarely 100% organized, especially when I am in the midst of a fabric pull or after returning home from a shop hop!  I have designated a plastic bin that sits on top of my fabric stash to place unsorted fabrics.  And as you can see, sometimes I move onto a new project and that unsorted fabric gets a little out of control to the point that it topples over and covers the entire counter!

Most of my yardage is folded neatly and organized into this fabulous, customizable and stackable ANTONIUS wire basket system from IKEA.  I believe IKEA is in the process of phasing out the ANTONIUS system and replacing it with ALGOT (which also has a metal frame and an assortment of similarly sized baskets and bins that slide into a track on the frame.)  I love the baskets as they hold a lot of fabric and if I fold my fabrics and place them vertically, I can easily see all the fabrics just by sliding out the basket.  Most of my baskets are sorted by color (the three columns on the right):  red-violet, pink, red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, teal, light blue, dark blue, purple, white/brown (yes--I have a dedicated section of brown fabrics), grey, black with color, black and white.  That first tall column contains my special collections:  Kona solids, Hand Dyed solids, Ombres, Kaffe Collective, Floral, Stripes, Novelty Prints and Ethnic Prints (Aboriginal, Asian and African).  If I am working with a particular collection, I will oftentimes remove the basket entirely and place it on my cutting table and/or ironing board.  I do make a point of going through each basket 1-2xs each year to pull out any unloved fabrics (which are donated to various charity groups through my guild) and make room for new fabric purchases!!   
Antonius Wire Rack & Basket System for My Yardage
Anyone else have a total weakness for pre cuts?!?  I am a total sucker for fat quarter bundles, jelly rolls, layer cakes and charm packs!!  While I am always looking for an awesome pre-cut friendly pattern, my tendency is to simply pet them from time to time!!  Baskets are my go to for storing my pre-cut collection.  A friend gave me a set of matching baskets that have little dividers that are just perfect for jelly rolls and charm packs!!
Perfect Baskets for Storing Pre Cuts
Over the years, I also have a collection of Amish baskets from my mother that are great for storing kits, patterns and more precuts!!  And there may just be a few layer cakes and jelly rolls squirrelled away in a flat drawer or two! 
More Precuts Stashed Away in Baskets and Drawers
Last but not least is scraps!!!  Once I am no longer able to fold it up to be stored in the wire baskets, it is considered a scrap.  Fused fabric scraps have their own dedicated storage bin. 
Storing Scraps--Fused and Unfused
Storing Pre-Cuts Made from Scraps

In an ideal world, I would cut up my other scraps after completing a project...ha Ha HA...I wish!  Instead they get tucked into their own plastic bin.  When that bin is bulging to the point that I am not longer able to close it, it is time for scrap management...

I like to cut my scraps into three usable sizes:

  • 2.5" or wider strips that are the full width of fabric (which go into a shallow bin)
  • 5" charm squares sorted by color (which go into a 6 qt plastic bin)
  • 2.5" squares (which get sorted by color and placed into shallow bins)

Thanks to my love of the Slice and Insert technique, I am now saving smaller and smaller "schnibbles" of fabric!!  If it is 1" or wider, it gets sorted by color and goes into my Slice of Improv containers.  Yes--those are chinese food take out containers and they hold an impressive amount of schnibbles!!  Currently I have one for pink/purple, orange/yellow, green, teal/blue, white, grey and black & white scraps.  They are easy to stack up and take with me to classes.  

And there you have it...my fabric stash storage system!  I hope it inspires you to visit your own stash and do some curating!!

Schnibbles To Go!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Beware of Quilt Avalanches

Over the past few years, as my quilting skills have grown considerably, so has my collection of finished quilts.  While many of my quilts are proudly displayed throughout our home and/or are travelling as part of exhibits, I am still left with a pile-o'-quilts folded and stacked on top of my bookshelf.  Of course, I made sure to store them up high so they are safe.  But who cares about the danger they present to me whenever I needed to pull out certain quilts for lectures and/or workshops!!  Inevitably, I would pull one or two quilts and an avalanche of quilts would ensue.  So Pinterest and Doug to the rescue!!
Quilt Storage Progression
My Pinterest searches revealed a number of quilters and crafters using large tubes to create storage cubbies for their quilts, yarns and other craft supplies.  Initially I thought they were PVC plastic tubes but was unable to find anything larger than 6" in diameter in the plumbing/gardening sections of our local hardware/home improvement stores.  Rather than give up, we wandered over to the contruction department where we found our solution:  Quikcrete Quik-Tube Building Forms.

Quik-Tubes are made out of heavy-duty cardboard and used to create concrete forms.    The tubes come in 8", 10" or 12" diameters and most are 4' long (although 10' and 12' lengths can sometimes be found).  They are fairly light yet strong, and inexpensive (ranging from $7-$16/tube--depending on the diameter needed).  I purchased 4 of the 10" diameter tubes that Doug cut into half giving me a total of 8 tubes, each approximately 2' long.  My plan was to stack them into a pyramid, so Doug built 2 large L-shaped wooden bookends to prevent the tubes from tumbling off the bookshelf--remember--we are trying to avoid a quilting avalanche!!

Now I have a tube for each of the workshops I regularly teach:  Walking Foot WOW!, Intriguing Interleaves, Slice of Improv, Mod Molas and Mandalas.  When it is time to organize and pack for the workshop, I am able to easily pull out those quilts needed without causing the others to crash down on top of me!  After the workshop, I simply roll them back up and stow them back into their assigned cubby until they are needed again.  And yes, I still have one remaining pile:  a pile-o-quilt tops that are all pin-basted and ready for quilting!

Confession time:  This new storage cubby system did lead to one last avalanche!  A long overdue and much needed cleaning avalanche!!!  Seeing all my quilts all rolled and organized motivated me to tackle organizing other areas of my studio.  Stay tuned for pictures of my cleaned and tidied studio!!! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

I've Got the Blues: Indigo Dyeing

This past Friday, I experimented with Indigo Dyeing by attending an Indigo Dye Drop-In at the New Museum of Los Gatos (many thanks to a recommendation from fellow quilter/teacher Marie S).  The workshops are held every two weeks from 1-5 PM.  The fee is $25 for NUMU members and $30 for guests, and include fabric, gloves, items to use as a resist (popsicle sticks, tongue depressers, rubber bands, string, etc), use of dyes and wonderful instruction from artist Zoë Umholtz.  And some attendees, especially those who had attended previous Drop In sessions, brought fabric, yarn, lace, woven goods and even paper to dye.  For those of us who were attending for the first time, Zoë took some time at the beginning to introduce us to the Art of Indigo Dyeing.  She talked about the indigo dye and process, brought some of her own indigo dyed samples and demonstrated a variety of folding/manipulation techniques to get us started.
NUMU Indigo Dye Drop In Workshop:  Dye Station, Dyed Goods and Samples Dyed by Zoë
As this was my first time using Indigo Dyeing, I took lots of notes and tried a few new fabric manipulations!!  I enjoyed the meditative nature of the dyeing process, as you really need to massage the dye into the fabric as well as work slowly so as to minimize splashing/dripping which will introduce oxygen to the dye (which will cause it to oxidize and lose dye power).  Each batch would come out a beautiful blue/green color, which Zoë warned us not to get too attached to as it would quickly change to a deep blue with the oxidation process.  At which point, the bundle was ready for another dye dip in order to achieve a more saturated blue color.  By the 2nd dip, I was very thankful that I had only prepared 8 fabric bundles, as they each required several minutes of massaging in the dye bath x 8 bundles x 4 dips each!  
My Fabric Bundles
After 3 hours of leaning over a dye bucket, I was ready to take my bundles home for the batching process.  It was hard enough for me to wait 12-24 hours for the Procion Fiber Reactive Dyes to complete their batching, so imagine my surprise when Zoë recommended we wait 48+ hours before unwrapping and rinsing out our fabric bundles!!  Luckily I was able to keep fairly busy Saturday and Sunday morning...but by Sunday afternoon, I was anxiously unwrapping my fabrics to see what fun patterns awaited me!!
Chevrons, Octagones, Hearts, Lines...Oh My!!
Of course I just had to prepare two indigo dyed mandalas!!  I can already envision these free motion quilted with some gold or silver metallic threads which will really pop against the rich blue background!!
Indigo Dyed Mandalas
I am really pleased with the finished results!  Many thanks to Zoë as it was a wonderful learning process.  I am already looking ahead to attending a future Drop In session...perhaps I will see you there?!?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quilting in the Garden 2017

Quilting in the Garden
This past weekend was the annual Quilting in the Garden, presented by Alden Lane Nursery.  Doug and I went up Sunday morning and met up with my friend Barbara G and her husband.  There we were treated to a beautiful quilts displayed amongst the oak trees!  The organizers always do a fabulous job of creating an amazing show filled with beauty and inspiration!  Look up and see glorious quilts and trees, look down and you see gorgeous flowers and garden themed items!  Here is a fun selection of imagery from our visit...
Fabulous Floral Displays
Spectacular Color Combinations
Rainbows Galaore--Including an Awesome Unicorn and Rainbows Christmas Tree!!
Creative Compositions
Truly Beautiful Textures
Fun Fauna Too!!
 Many thanks to Alden Lane Nursery for a fun and creative-filled morning of beauty!!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Aurifil Monofilament Threads Put to the Test

This past weekend, I debuted my new Modern Mandalas workshop.  These starry designs are achieved through a combination of piecing and bias tape applique.  
Modern Mandalas Starry Designs
For the piecing and quilting, my go to is Aurifil 50 wt as it is thin enough to allow my pieced units to lay flat, is strong enough to go through multiple layers and adds beautiful quilted texture.  When it comes to the bias tape applique, I prefer to use a monofilament thread as it is nearly invisible and therefore does not require me to change thread colors as these designs require two or more colors of bias tape.  So imagine my delight when I discovered that Aurifil also makes Monofilament Invisible threads!  I was eager to order some and see whether they lived up to Aurifil's reputation for producing superior threads.

Aurifil's Monofilament Invisible Threads are made of nylon and available in two colors:  Smoke for use with dark fabrics and Clear for use with light colored fabrics.  Below you can see how the Smoke thread (top) blends in with the dark black strips, whereas the clear (bottom) beautifully camouflages against the light white stripes.
Aurifil Monofilament Invisible Threads Smoke and Clear
Monofilament threads have a reputation for being a bit persnickety.  Aurifil provides some helpful tips on their website including:

  • Reduce top tension to 2.0 or lower on a home sewing machine
  • Use a slightly larger stitch length
  • Use a matching color 50 wt thread in the bobbin
  • Use either a 90/14 or 100/16 needle
  • Iron Guides to prevent shrinkage and/or melting (as this is a Nylon product)
Armed with this helpful information, I was ready to test this product with my own series of experiments in preparation for use with my Modern Mandala designs.  

Set Up for Experiments:

I used a 90/14 Top Stitch Needle in my sewing machine and prepared a series of 5 samples (ladders with rungs) that combine 1/2" packaged bias tape (green) as well as 1/4" bias tape that I made using 100% quilting cotton (white) set onto a navy Kona cotton background.

Test Subjects Ready for Experiementation
Prior to stitching down the bias tape, I use Elmer's Washable, No Run School White Glue to glue baste the bias tape into place.  In addition to being safe and non-toxic, Elmer's School Glue is starch based and washable!  I simply put a thin line glue onto the background and then position the bias tape on top.  I hold it in place for a few seconds and then use a dry hot iron to heat set.  If for some reason I need to adjust any of my bias tape pieces, I can peel it back and reposition as needed with additional Elmer's Glue.
Elmer's School Glue for Glue Basting

Experiment #1:  Tension

Initially I started with a tension around 3.0.  While I did use Aurifil 50-wt thread in the bobbin, I purposely chose a contrasting color (Black) which would allow me to easily identify any tension issues.  And as you can see below, I did experience some issues as I stitched along the intersections.  While I am not sure whether it was the fact that I was pivoting or stitching through multiple layers (as it only occurred at the intersections), but there are quite a few stitches where the black bobbin thread is very noticeable.
Troubleshooting Tension #1
On the next sample, I followed Aurifil's instructions and reduced the stitch length to 1.0-1.5, which completely resolved the issue and yielded beautifully stitched lines!
Reduced Tension = Beautiful Stitches

Experiment #2:  Pressing with Heat

My Modern Mandalas do require piecing and pressing, so I needed to see how Aurifil's Monofilament Invisible Threads would hold up to pressing with a hot, dry iron.  Would the monofilament stitches shrink, resulting in the black bobbin threads from resurfacing?  Or would the the monofilament completely melt?!?  In preparation for either scenario, would a pressing cloth help mitigate shrinkage/melting?  Perhaps pressing only from the back, thereby preventing direct contact?  Or perhaps reducing the temperature would be necessary?

So I began with the worse case scenario:  direct contact with an iron on the Cotton setting (which is the highest my irons will go).  I was stunned and relieved to see no evidence of shrinking or melting!! These ladder units laid perfectly flat and the stitches remained beautifully intact.
Pressed and Still Beautiful
So much for all my extra test samples to test the use of pressing clothes or lower temperatures!!  And in case you were curious--I still tested using a pressing cloth and reducing heat--and they remained beautifully flat and intact.

When I went to test pressing from the backside (in lieu of a pressing cloth), I did notice some slight warping but only in the very first sample stitched prior to reducing tension.  So I suspect the bubbling was a result of tension issues vs. applied heat as the other two stitched in 1.0-1.5 layed beautifully flat.
Comparison of Back Side With Tension Adjustments (left and middle) and Prior to Adjustments (right)
I was seriously impressed with how well Aurifil Monofilament Invisible Threads performed!!  Very little finetuning was required and at no point did I experience any thread breaks!  (In the spirit of science, I should note that as I was working with lighter colored bias tape, all my experiementation was performed using the Clear version.  While I do not anticipate any issues using the Smoke version, I will likely do some more testing of tension and application of heat just to be on the safe side.)

And in light of these stellar results, I was ready to use Aurifil Monofilament Invisible thread on my latest Modern Mandala designs!

In Progress Modern Mandala
And here is another Modern Mandala that is assembled and ready for quilting!  I am looking forward to adding some exciting texture...using Aurifil threads of course!!
Assembled Modern Mandala Ready for Quilting!
Many thanks to Aurifil for providing me with two spools of their Monofilament Invisible Thread (as part of my participation in their Aurifil Artisans program).  I can't wait to stitch up some more Modern Mandala designs!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Modern Mandalas with Folsom Fiber & Quilt Guild

Trunk Show Review

After I finished teaching Slice of Improv for the Foothill Quilters Guild, I drove down to Folsom, CA for another round of Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show and workshop for the Folsom Quilt & Fiber Guild.

They too had a quilt challenge in progress where there was a challenge fabric and members had to incorporate the color green by exchanging 2-3 swatches with a fellow member!  What a great idea for encouraging members to get to know one another!!

Their meeting venue had a large stage, so we were able to drape all the quilts from the trunk show along the edge for members to come up and get a closer look at the quilting and other small details!

When it came time to book the workshop, their programs chair fell in love with my Modern Mandalas and asked if it would be possible for me to teach a 1-day workshop.  I shared my concerns about the precision and time required to create my Lime Light, Star Bright Modern Mandala, but offered an alternative based on my experiments using bias tape applique to create modern mandalas.  She agreed and I went to work creating a new sample, workshop description and supply list!  In the next few months, I was a busy little bee testing and refining my process and pattern.  There were samples and step outs to create, along with handouts and pattern templates to draft for use during the workshop.  But all these efforts paid off when it came time to debut this fun new workshop!

Just check out all these amazing in-progress Modern Mandalas!!!!  We went through the steps involved to create a quadrant and then used some mirror magic to preview the completed mandala design!  What fun to see the pattern transformed using different prints and color combinations using bright solids, polka dots, strips and chevrons!
Magnificent Modern Mandalas!
And here are a few of my inaugural Modern Mandala Makers...who were all fearless and lots of fun!!
Modern Mandala Makers
 At the conclusion of the workshop, we created a Mandala Mash Up!
Modern Mandala Mash Up
I am so excited about this new workshop!!!  In fact, I will be teaching it again this Saturday, September 23rd at Scruffy Quilts in San Mateo.  There are still a few openings for those looking to add some modern zen to their quilting!