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 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!  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Slice of Improv with Foothill Quilters Guild

This past week, I trekked up to Auburn, CA to visit the Foothill Quilters Guild.  En route I visited a few local quilt shops including Thistle Dew Quilt Shoppe and Whistle Stop Quilt & Sew Shop and found some fun fabrics that had to come home with me!!  I also ran into a few familiar faces, which was a fun treat for me!!  At the Monday night guild meeting, I presented my Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show.  In some ways I felt like I was preaching to the choir as they had a fabulous quilt challenge already in full swing:  Participating members received a bag containing an unwanted bridesmaid dress that they were then tasked to turn into new fiber art!  What a super fun challenge idea and I saw two of the mystery bridesmaid dresses revealed that evening and would love to see what becomes of them!!  
Challenge Yourself!
The Challenge Yourself! theme continued into the next day's workshop:  Slice of Improv.  I have so much fun teaching this workshop and nudging quilters outside of their comfort zones...and this group of quilters were an adventurous lot!  They really embraced the improvisational nature and each added their own fun personality into their group of improvisationally pieced blocks!!  Some were fairly new to improvisational piecing and really stretched themselves as they tried the various techniques.  Others were accustomed to improvisation and created personal challenges for themselves by trying some of the more advanced techniques and/or combining techniques.

Not only were they adventurous, but they were pretty productive group as well, churning out quite a few finished blocks!!  When it came to background fabrics, this group was pretty evenly split:  dark and light colored!!

Wow!  These bright colored scraps just pop against the dark colored backgrounds!!  One quilter brought a wonderful pile of ombre fabrics that just glowed against the dark green mottled background fabrics and each block looked like a neon sign!!  Another quilter brought a fun assortment of black and white stripes & prints (leftovers from a Freddy Moran workshop) and incorporated a few pops of color!!  Two quilters brought a variety of grey fabrics, both in solid and prints, that they stacked, sliced and then shuffled to create dynamic backgrounds for their colorful inserts to truly shine!!
Scraps that Pop Against a Dark Background
The other half of the class chose lighter colored backgrounds and I just love the subtle beauty of their blocks!!  Cream colored prints with an assortment of brown, pink and peach prints made for a very beautiful color palette.  Another member brought a bright colored jellyroll and a cream colored Grunge print for her background.  I love how she pieced schnibbles from the selvedge for a fun detail!!  Another participant brought a rich assortment of silks and other non-traditional quilting fabrics, and chose to work on larger blocks.  Each block was truly a work of art complete with beautiful texture!!  Last but not least is a really cool combination of blues and greens, with equally exciting lines, curves and angles!!
Subtle But Equally Brilliant Blocks!
The day flew by quickly as we enjoyed the freeing, forgiving and FUN nature of improvisational piecing!!  Many thanks to the Foothill Quilters Guild for an absolutely fabulous visit!!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

August Quilting Adventures with the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association

August was amazing as I had the honor and privilege to present my Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show and teach Walking Foot WOW! for my fellow Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association quilters!  There was so much interest in the Walking Foot WOW! workshop that our programs team went above and beyond to secure additional dates and venues to accommodate three SOLD out workshops!!
Walking Foot WOW! Take 1, 2 and 3!!!
With nearly 60 members and 20+ quilting designs--there were so many beautiful, modern quilted textures stitched over those 3 days.  
Gorgeously Stitched (and beautifully bound) Samplers by Robbie Groves (left) and Carol McCord (right)
After debuting this Mod Molas technique at the SCVQA Quilt Show, Isabel from the Programs committee asked me if it would be possible to incorporate this technique into Walking Foot WOW!?!
There was certainly great potential and after some experimentation in creating a new WOW sampler, I agreed to introduce a fun new twist for SCVQA.

I have so much fun watching everyone's WOW samplers fill with modern quilted textures...but what fun to see them totally transform as they cut out small swatches to reveal a colorful layer hidden below!!!!
Amazing Quilted Transofmrations by Pat Cox (left) and Joni Strother (middle and right)
Can you say WOW!  WOW!!  WOW!!!  Joni Strother wrote a fabulous blog post about her workshop sampler and brilliantly photographed the transformation (I highly recommend checking it out!!)

And it sure was a hot crowd for the monthly meeting where I presented my Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show.  Yes--we were experiencing record hot temperatures here in the Santa Clara area and regrettably our meeting venue does not have A/C.  I am so appreciative of all those who braved the heat as it was a packed audience.  I was honored to share my journey in which so many have played a pivotal role in my own development as a quilt artist.  Many thanks to all those who have served on the board for our dynamic association, our programs team that schedule top-notch teachers from which I have learned so much, volunteers who organized quilt challenge and quilt shows that have challenged me as a quilt artist, the two hosts and participants of Q101 that helped me discover my joy of teaching and everyone who has ever participated in any of our quilts shows and/or show and tell--which always leave me feeling inspired and eager to create!!  THANK YOU!!!

I was especially proud to see several members showcase quilts that were started in past workshops with me (Slice of Improv) as well as a whopping 8 WOW Samplers from the first two workshops!  Let's just say I was beaming inside and out after seeing all those fabulous finishes!!

Last but not least, Doug was able to join me for the meeting (and was a huge help with transportation and technology).  He sat in the front row and hear me sing his praise for being so incredibly supportive as I pursue this exciting new journey as full-time quilt artist, teacher and lecturer!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Time for some Technicolor

My September newsletter just went out via email and it is packed with color, color and more color!!  I invite you to check it out and sign up so next month's gets delivered right to your inbox.
PS.  October's newsletter will be all about Organization!