Tuesday, August 29, 2017

UFO Finish: Fire & Ice

Woo hoo!  Another UFO carried to completion--with lots of credit to my quilting family!!  Back in June 2013, I discovered this gorgeous "Fire & Ice" quilt pattern by Amy Garro of 13 Spools and immediately purchased a downloadable copy.  Amy's instructions were well-written, easy to follow and included a time saving or fabric saving option for prepping all the fabric units needed for this paper-pieced design.  I proceeded to purchase/order all 16 Kona solids outlined in the pattern and cut out the rectangles outlined in the time-saving option!  But soon new quilting deadlines approached and my Fire & Ice quilt got put onto the backburner for another year and a half!!

Fast forward to February 2015 when I was invited to participate in a mini quilting retreat organized by a friend.  I packaged up my Fire & Ice project (and a few others) and managed to complete all the paper pieced rows, quilt top assembly and even removed all off the paper backing!  Once again I lost momentum as I contemplated how best to quilt it.
Quilt Top Complete and Ready for Quilting
A year or so lapsed and I would occasionally pull it out and make small progress:  piecing the quilt back, preparing the quilt sandwich, pin basting and even some stitching in the ditch with monofilament thread.  Unfortunately just as I was gaining momentum and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel on this project, my machine started to act up and needed to be sent in for some servicing.  I packaged it back up and banished it back to the UFO pile.

Fast forward again to this past April 2017, when I won a gift certificate for customized Quilting by Marcia Wachuta of Marcia's Crafty Sewing & Quilting, as part of the Project Quilting Grand Prize drawing.  Marcia has been a long time sponsor and participant in Project Quilting challenges, so I've had numerous opportunities to see examples of her amazing quilting over the years, and was excited to see her work her quilting magic on my Fire & Ice quilt top.  I sent Marcia a picture of the quilt top and shared some of my original ideas for quilting:  snowflakes and flames.  Marcia loved the flames idea and suggested multiple thread changes to match the fabric gradation.  And with that I went to work removing the few lines of stitching I had managed to complete, pressing my quilt top and backing and packaging it all to send off to Marcia.  Once the quilting was complete, Marcia sent me several pictures via email and I was just in awe!  Wow!  Wow!!  WOW!!!
Amazing Quilting by Marcia Wachuta
Quilt top-check!  Quilting-check!  All that was left to do was add a label and bind.  And once again, my quilting friends to the rescue to help this quilt along to completion.  While the original quilt pattern used solid black for the binding, I wanted to explore some other options.  From my stash I pulled out a variety of multicolored batiks, ombres, dots and even some black and white stripes.  As I auditioned each, they each seemed to fall a bit short.  So I brought them all to my small quilt group and asked for their input.  They auditioned each fabric and agreed that none did justice to this quilt top.  Once again, I was stuck and worried that this quilt might return to its UFO status.  Just then, one of the members looked over at the other project that I had been working on:  a small wall hanging that had a zebra print binding.  She wondered how that zebra print fabric might work on my Fire & Ice quilt...so we tried it out and Eureka!  The solution was right there under my very own nose the entire morning!!  Excited, I returned home and got to work prepping and attaching some new zebra print binding!!
Finishing Touches, Many Thanks to My Fellow Quilters
Cool Stalagmites and Hot Stalactites with Gorgeous Quilting!!
Finally, after 4+ years of on and off progress, and lots of help along the way from my fellow quilters, my Fire & Ice is complete!  The only decision left to make is whether to hang it in my studio where I can admire it as I work or in the front foyer where it will welcome all who enter.  

"Fire & Ice", Finishes 46" x 54"

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fabric Dyeing Fun in Merced

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of hosting a Dye Party for the Gateway Quilters Guild in Merced, CA.  We were blessed to have a beautiful backdrop, gorgeous weather and a fabulous group of women who had a great sense of adventure and lots of creative energy!!  Many thanks to Louise for all her hard work in organizing the program and to Susan for hosting the party in her beautiful backyard.
Fabulous Dye Party Attendees
We warmed up with some dye basics (safety, supplies and process) before diving into the various fabric manipulations that are used to create exciting patterns and shapes.  Each participant received 3 yards of Pimatex PFD fabric that they then could rip into smaller pieces and fold, pleat, clamp or scrunch using any of the manipulations presented.  Smaller teams of 2-3 then helped me to mix up the Fiber Reactive Dyes using the three primary colors:  fuschia, lemon yellow and turquoise.  Now that all the dyes and fabrics were prepared, it was time to dye!!
Adding a Splash of Color
I loved watching the creative juices flow as attendees mixed the primary colors to create a beautiful array of colors and patterns!!  These women were fearless as they experiemented with the various techniques and colors.  In less than 4 hours, they took their little bundles of hand dyed fabrics home for the batching and rinsing process.  Luckily several of the attendees sent me pictures of their beautiful hand dyed treasures, that clearly reflect all their hard work and risk taking!!

Check out Louise K's absolutely amazing fabrics.  She incorporated a variety of techniques and created a beautiful collection of fabrics.  I especially loved her colorful mandala, chevron stripes, horizontal stripes as well as the celestial/magical vibe using a spiral cut out and purple dyes.    
Louise K's Lovely Hand Dyed Treasures
Next up is Susan H who gravitated towards the jewel tones of fuschia, purple and turquoise, but also branched out to incorporate some yellow and green.  She too created a exciting collection of fabrics that have such glorious pattern and design!  Each is truly a work of art!!
Susan H's Jewel Like Beauties
Last up is Barbara S's and her gorgeous collection of hand dyed fabrics.  What a lovely display of her hand dyed creations as they hang across a laundry line!!  She too had fun combining various colors and patterns, and even added a splash of color and pattern to her white apron!!
Barbara S's Beautiful Outdoor Gallery
If you enjoyed Barbara's outdoor gallery display, then you will want to be sure to check out the Gateway Quilters' Guild upcoming outdoor quilt show "Quilts on Forist Lane" on Saturday, September 16th from 10 AM to 4 PM in Merced.  You will be treated to a beautiful display of members' quilts that will be hung outdoors amongst trees and gardens, along with a country store of handmade treasures, vendors and light refreshments.  Admission is $10.  Be sure to visit the Gateway Quitler's Guild facebook page for more information.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Beautiful New Hand Dyed Treasures...

This past Monday, I debuted my new "Dare to Dye" lecture/trunk show for the Gateway Quilters Guild in Merced, CA.  To add a splash of color to my slide show, I treated myself to not one but two days of fabric dyeing!!  A bright batch of fuschia, lemon yellow and turquoise dyes was mixed up amd were used to dye almost 16 yards of Pimatex cotton over the course of the two dye days.

This first round of fabrics are the results of some experimentation with  pleating, clamping and tying to create some awesome patterned designs.  While I love the organic stripes, I was especially delighted by the furry face that stared back at me in the center chevron fabric (which was only visible on one side)!
Pretty Prismatic Patterns
I had a lot of fun using the scrunched technique to conduct some colorful experiments.  I began by combining just two primary colors to create some pretty spectacular colorbursts...
Fuschia and Yellow Create a Fiery Burst of Colors!!
Turquoise and Fuschia Combine Perfectly into Purples
Yellow and Turquoise into Green Gradations
Then it was time to combine all three primary colors to achieve even more brilliant colorbursts...
Sampling of My Brilliant Bursts of Color
While I don't usually enjoy ironing, I sure do love pressing all my hand dyed beauties after they come out from the rinsing process.  This is my first opportunity to really examine the beautiful color combinations and patterns that occur as the dyes interact with one another!  I especially enjoyed pressing out my new hand dyed mandalas that are each approximately 22" square.  I am eager to enhance their beauty with some free-motion quilting to create wholecloth quilted mandalas. The hard part will be deciding which one to quilt first!!!
Hand Dyed Mandalas Ready for Quilting
I sure hope you had as much fun viewing these vivid fabric creations as I had creating them!!!!

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Wholecloth Quilted Mandalas

Hand Dyed Mandalas Ready for Quilting
Zen time as I transformed two more hand dyed mandalas into wholecloth quilts.  Just like Moonlit Mandala, there was no need for marking, as all the quiting was guided by the shapes and patterns created by the dyeing process.

First quilted transformation is Starburst...
"Starburst Mandala" Finishes 22" x 22"
Here is a close up of the quiting with Aurifil  White (#2024) in 50 weight which really allowed the hand dyed design to take center stage!
Quilting Detail
A bright pink Kona solid was used for the quilt back, allowing the wholecloth quilting to truly shine!
Reverse Side of Wholecloth Mandala Quilting
Next up is Peacock Paisley...
This quilt got off on a rocky start!!!  In my excitement to start quilting, I reached across my sewing table and slid the prepared quilt sandwich under my sewing machine and just started quilting!  For this mandala wholecloth quilt, I chose to incorporate different variations of the Paisley shape into each area of quilting.  Starting in the center, I chose a very elaborate and dense feather that was then echo quilted!  As I was quilting I kept hearing a punching sound and initially dismissed it as the hand dyed Pimatex cotton has a very dense weave.  After I had finished quilting three feathers, I went to bury the thread tails.  As I slipped my hand under the back side to ensure my hand needle wasn't going through to the back, I soon realized the cause of the punching sound:  An entire sheet of paper that was now stitched onto the back side of my quilt!!  I grabbed my trusty pair of tweezers and went to work carefully removing all the small bits of paper that had been perforated by my very dense quilting!!  
Haste Makes Waste
There was no way I would allow this minor set back to interfere with my Zen quilting!  Once most of the paper was removed, I double checked for any rogue pieces of paper and them resumed my meditative quilting!

Some doodling was required to figure out a new Paisley design for the next round of quilting designs.
Auditioning Different Paisley Designs for Round 2
And some more doodling fun for the outer ring.
More Paisley Doodles
Here you can see those doodles translated into quilting, again using Aurifil White (#2024) in 50-weight.
Detail of Peacock Paisley Quilting
A fabulous Kaffe woven stripe was used for the binding...
Peacock Paisley, Finishes 22" x 22"
And a picture of the quilt back, with most of the paper removed from the center!!
Quilt Back
This is the last of the smaller sized hand dyed mandalas from my December Dye Party.  So this called for a much needed Dye Party where I hand dyed 6 more mini mandalas...and I still have 1-2 larger sized mandalas.  Looks like I will be whipping up some new quilt sandwiches in preparation for some more quilting zen.  And yes, I will be sure to check the backs for any random pieces of paper before placing any of them under my sewing machine!!
More Wholecloth Quilted Mandalas on the Horizon

Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Monthly Newsletter

I am excited to announce that my monthly newsletter is finally up and running, and you can check out the inaugural issue here!!  This endeavor has been several months in the making, and kept getting placed onto the back burner for one reason or another.  Thanks to Abby Glassenberg's Email Marketing Jumpstart online course, I now have the technical know how to put out an awesome newsletter with great content for my fellow quilting friends.

Each month's newsletter will celebrate a different topic or theme related to quilting such as Color in September, Organization in October and Texture lined up for November.  I'll share some behind the scenes sneak peaks in and around my studio, unveil my latest creations as well introduce you to some of my favorite tools, tricks and resources.  I'll also be highlighting upcoming quilt challenges along with my teaching & travel schedule.  

So be sure to check out my first issue and if you like what you see, I encourage you to subscribe to receive a monthly boost of quilting tips & inspiration from my studio delivered right into your email inbox!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Van Gogh Cherrywood Challenge: Van Gogh's Blues & Hues

Yikes!  It has been some time since my last blog post, which means I've been a busy little quilting bee!  Yes--I will blame my blogging silence on this beautiful bundle of black and blues:  Cherrywood's Van Gogh Challenge fabrics.              
Cherrywood's Lucious Challenge Bundle
This year's challenge called for us to "use Vincent van Gogh's paintings as inspiration to push yourself creatively, think outside the box and create new fiber art."  Challenge rules included a 20" x 20" square finish and to use the challenge bundle of blues and black in 60-70% of the quilt top with the option of using additional accent colors from Cherrywoods hand dyed collection (white is the exception as they don't carry white).

As my usual, I did not actually start working on this challenge until the week before the deadline (Technically Thursday before the Tuesday deadline--but who is counting days, hours and minutes until the deadline?!?)  My mantra for this particular challenge was "If Plan A doesn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.  Stay Cool!"  And as several facebook friends reminded me...there is always the greek alphabet and chinese alphabet that has even more back up options!!

Plans A through E included idea of making a modern mandala, modern mola featuring peacocks, abstract irises, Blues Clues and even the Cookie Monster!  In fairness, I may have been hungry during that last moment of inspiration!  Luckily, several of these plans never made it past the brainstorming phase.  I did try a few different paper mock ups to play around with coloring of a modern iris design but I was having a hard time achieving the 60-70% use of challenge fabrics while also achieving an interesting quilt design...so my paper mock ups were scrapped and destined for the recycle bin.  
Iris I Had a Better Design...
Like so many van Gogh fans, I love Starry Night.  I thought about incorporating some Starry Design inspiration into a backdrop for a Modern Mandala but struggled with the background idea and again that 60-70% rule.  This particular plan did involve me cutting up some fabric before scrapping the idea.  Luckily, those fused strips will make a lovely addition to my bin of fused scraps and I only lost a little of the challenge fabrics.
Fabric Swirls that Fizzled
Back to the drawing board.  As I studied Starry Night's backdrop, I envisioned swirling water that ebbs and flows.  Immediately I remembered Karen Eckmeier's Layered Waves technique that I learned while taking a workshop with her at PIQF.  "Yes--this would certainly capture those bold brushstrokes nicely" is what I told myself over and over as I grabbed my rotary cutter and cut a large waving curve right through the center of one of the challenge blues!!  Any fears were soon quelled once I finished my first wavy strata set!  Literally and figuratively, this design was finally flowing as I constructed more and more strata that just ebbed and flowed under the sewing machine!!  I added a lighter and darker value of blue to the challenge blues and just kept assembling units until I was down to scraps that were too small to use.
Finally Going with the Flow!
Laying out all these layerered waves was a bit tricky as they each unit had a mind of its own.  The goal is to conceal any raw edges by tucking them under the other layered waves.  However any shifting of one strata set, even minor, would inevitably lead to a domino effect of shifting all the other waves.  But after some careful maneuvering, I had achieved a composition that truly ebbed and flowed like van Gogh's brushstrokes!  I used Elmer's School glue to carefully glue baste the overlapping areas to create a weblike unit that could be picked up and moved.  This made it possible to audition different background colors:  orange, purple, pinks, lime and even...gasp...brown (shocking I know!!)
Auditioning Backgrounds
And while there were certainly some exciting color combinations, I chose to use the challenge black fabric as it allowed the blue waves pop!!  A friend was in need of more black fabric to complete the binding on her entry so I tried my best to conserve as much of the black fabric for her to use.  This was done by tracing the gaps onto freezer paper and adding some extra allowance.  Each template shape was then cut out and repositioned onto the challenge black making for a fun jigsaw puzzle as I tried to efficiently nestle all the shapes together and minimize any fabric waste.  Based on the image below of the remaining scraps, I think I was pretty successful as I was able to share a little over 5" x 18 or 20" with my friend to complete her binding!!  More Elmer's school glue was used to glue baste each background shape into place resulting in a finished quilt top.
Black Background Bits
I had envisioned some dense quilting, so I was confident that my glue basted edges would be reinforced in the quilting process.  Using flowing water as my inspiration, my doodles included different combinations of wavy lines, bubbles and spirals.  

Flowing Doodles
In my initial doodles, I used the strata lines as boundaries for each new shape.  But over time, I started to blur these boundaries, allowing some of the motifs to flow over into neighboring doodles, adding a water like feel.  A silver metallic thread was used for all the layered waves.
Doodles That Ebb & Flow
A variety of angular motifs provided a nice contrast to the swirling designs, as well as simulated the texture of a painter's canvas.
Canvas Like Background Designs
Black Aurifil in 50-weight was used to quilt the black background areas as I did not want these areas to draw focus from the brushstrokes.
Close Up of Quilting Details
One of the smaller strata sets was used for my quilt label.  A black micron pen was used on the lighter blue stratas, while a silver metallic Gelly Roll pen was used to write on the darker fabrics.
One More Brushstroke for My Label
My Artist Statement:  In Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh’s iconic brushwork combines darkness with light, chaos and serenity with color and texture.  In my minimalistic, modern remake, multi-hued curved strata ebb and flow, mimicking the hundreds of colorful and textured paint strokes Vincent layered into his celestial backdrop.  Metallic threads add flowing textures that truly sparkles against the brilliant blues swirls that dance off the edge. 
"Van Gogh's Blues & Hues", 20" x 20"
There were 465 submissions which is both amazing and daunting!!  Given both the sheer quantity as well as the impressive quality of this year's entries (many of which have been posted onto social media), the jurors are going to have a difficult time choosing which 120 will join the travelling exhibit.  Regardless of outcome for my entry, I know it will be a truly awesome exhibit and look forward to seeing it at PIQF in 2018!

"I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day." 
- Vincent van Gogh