I’ve just really started reading The Little Spark 30 Ways to Ignite You’re Creativity by Carrie Bloomston published by C&T. I wrote a review on the Generation Q website that you can read here. Reading to write a review and reading to absorb are different. Reading to write a review is rushed and hurried. Reading to absorb is quite different, it’s slower. I can stop and enjoy, think about what’s being read. I can stop to spend some time doodling, think about my quilt space and upcoming projects or doodle for a bit.
There is something about the sense of encouragement that really resonates with me. As I read I keep thinking, “This!” and “This!” There are a couple of other books lately that I’ve had that same connection with. I’m liking that connection.
Carrie begins talking about space and how it’s set up, claiming some space as your own and keeping things in there related to your creativity. Keeping things out of there that belong in some other space in the house. Our space as quilters is important. This is the space where we make quilts. Where the work of our hands becomes a gift of our heart that will be shared.
I’m thinking about other quilt spaces I’ve been in, friends spaces that are all tidy and organized. Then think of mine with some sense ill ease. The thing is when I get there, despite the creative clutter I can do good work. This is where things get complicated; I like the idea of a clean tidy space where I can get my hands on everything however my creative brain doesn’t quite work that way. I like seeing my stuff. I like seeing quilts in progress and all the bits that go with them. What I’m not quite fond of is not being able to find a few things…and I can work on resolving that.
There are things in the space that can and will shortly move to other spaces. Over the next few days I’m going to make a plan and figure out how to make better use of my space and honor the fact that I like a bit of clutter. What I’m realizing I don’t like is mess and that’s where I am at the moment. I will have a free day and a plan soon. I’m looking forward to it. I think this will help me sort out stuff for the book as well.
One of the things I’ve found very helpful for writing blogs and writing words for the book is changing my physical space. I’ve moved from the living room to the dining room table. Somehow it feels more conducive to getting the words on to the pages. Clearing some space in my brain. I feel more productive. Which in this regard is a great thing. That will help as I move forward with meeting goals and hitting due dates well.
And I’m making some scheduling changes at work that will help with this as well. As of the first of the year I am no longer working on Fridays. Part of this has to do with writing the book, part of this is to give me more space to teach at the store. Look for more quilting related classes to be added over the next few months. I can tell you there will be a paper piecing class (the project is sweet and has options), a quilting lab where you can come in and quilt for the day with suggestions from me and the other students, and I’m adding a whole cloth class. I haven’t schedule in dates yet but will post as soon as they’re on.
It was with great pleasure that I delivered Moon Set to it’s new home. Relived describes well the big chunk of emotion experienced. I made my intended delivery date and completed one major task before moving on to a new one.
Using a great variety of thread just makes me happy. I don’t always know how the end project will look and I kind of like that surprise.
Lisa is still working on her quilt. I’m looking forward to seeing how she finishes this. She has a great start. Learning how to quilt on a domestic sewing machine isn’t easy after you’ve been a long arm quilter for a long time. Learning how to long arm isn’t easy after you’ve been a domestic machine quilter for a long period of time. Hey wait! What? I hope I wrote that correctly. Either way you go it’s all about practice, practice, practice. When Lisa finishes her quilt I’ll do something of a splash and give her a gift.
I’ve enjoyed every single quilt that has come in to Lisa’s site. The link takes you to all of the quilts. Lisa and I spoke to each other on the phone the other day hit the random number generator and let that select a whole cloth quilt to win. Lisa and I are both very happy that we didn’t have to choose this on our own.
The random number generator selected 32 and here it is: Congratulations Tatyana Duffie!
Tatyana receives a 2 1/2 yd cut of Radiance (compliments of Teri Lucas), a twin size batting (thank you to Olde City Quilts) and two rulers, the Quilter’s Groove™ ProMax™ and the Pro™ compliments of Lisa Calle.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this project. We’ve loved every single moment of it.
Just 11 days ago I taught Let Your Foot Loose, be Fancy & Free at the City Quilter. It was a good day. The bonus was having Maria O. as a student. Maria is a fab quilter and teacher in her own right (she teaches at the City Quilter). Maria posted this photo on fb of her finished, binding and all, sample from class. Oh my goodness!!!! Swoon!
Maria certainly let her foot loose, changing thread weight and color on a whim! Letting the thread do the work for her to create an interesting piece. At the beginning of class she showed a quilt (she was delivering to someone) – the quilting is outstanding, tone on tone blending into the background.
This piece of hers oh yes, makes this teacher all kinds of giddy!
Susan asked, “Did you over stitch or did you add a line to make it look like the fabric turns?”
Great question Susan!
To answer completely I’ll show a photo of the whole piece first.
Well the answer is actually both. The first part of the answer is in how I drew the original lines of the whole cloth. I took the lid from my button tin and drew the original circle then added swooping lines under it to create a “mountain” with the moon hanging low. I then drew in the lines for the star points, making them intentionally wonky. Why you might ask? Because every star has her own shape.
Part of the visual has to do with the high contrast of the color: a bright cream to orange variegated 50 weight (Tiara Silk) silk thread next to a solid deep purple. By following the line of the original swoop and stitching densely that helps.
Since I outline stitched the area with the lighter thread and very close to the darker thread it looks like I stitched over in that area.
One thing you can see here that won’t be visible once the quilt is finished is the drawn line and how I almost got there. I was done stitching with that thread and wanted to move on somewhere else. Drawn lines are guidelines, not rules.
And a Whole Cloth Challenge Update. Lisa Calle and I had a bit of a chat the other day and I’d hoped to draft a quickie post over the weekend. We’re extending the challenge to the first week in December. We both have had a few things in our lives that have prevented us from having the time to finish our quilts. If you’ve finished your quilt both of us would love to post photos on our blogs so please send us photos. (note Lisa posted photos on this blog post.) If you’ve been thinking you’d like to make a whole cloth quilt there’s time!
it’s fat quarter size
design is your choice
fabric and thread and batting are your choice
Sunday was a fruitful day indeed.
Let’s go back to Saturday, okay let’s go back a bit further.
After making @play I knew I wanted to make another quilt loosely based on that design. It’s been on the inspiration wall for quite a while and this chocolate-brown Radiance in my fabric stash about that long. Saturday afternoon I made it into the studio taped two sheets of paper together to create about the size quilt I’m going for and started to draw/think.
A couple of different facebook friends asked what do I mark with and why. When I do mark a quilt top I tend to prefer Generals Chalk Pencils or Pounce if I’m using templates. I like that the markings will either come off as I’m stitching or with a damp cloth later on.
After about 30 minutes I moved over to the fabric drew the bones and stopped to make some further decisions: batting, how many layers of batting, backing, thread.
I opened the cabinet with the batting to see what I have that is kind of flat. Bamboo, perfect. Opened it up to let it relax over night. I decided to use 2 layers as I like the look and feel.
Stonehenge by Northcott is the back, I’ll show that another time. While I was spray basting the first time the adhesive was gathering like snot and sneezed on the Radiance. That one was removed and set aside. I can’t bear to toss it…yet. Back to the drawing on the Radiance resulting in the photo on the right.
When I marked the bones of @play I placed the Radiance over the drawing I’d made, for this I chose a spot to be the visual center, placed a dot there and drew in the spirals freehand. Once I knew where the spirals were I chose the ones that would have flying geese and drew in the lines – again freehand. I have practiced drawing straight lines enough that I’m comfortable drawing them in without a ruler. Well, at least within the short distance of the spirals. When I got to the grid (seen in the first picture) I marked that with my omni-grid ruler.
Someone else asked if I stitch around the perimeter of the quilt before starting the quilting. No I don’t. Particularly on a whole cloth, I’m concerned that the quilt will grow and there’s nowhere to go with the fabric.
Do I plan motifs before I quilt? As a general rule, no, I don’t. I didn’t even plan that two sets of geese would be flying in the same direction the first from the lower right to the upper left; the second from the upper left to the upper right. I’m noticing this as I type. I have no idea what will come next.
or two. It’s not easy having a quilterly mind.
I see quilts, quilting motifs everywhere! Oh my goodness!
I see how to fill blank spaces in with feathers, swirls, mazes, greek keys, straight lines, curved lines.
And in my teacherly mind I can often see how to share it with my students.
Bridges, facades, old sewing machine cabinets, the texture and designs on fabric will set my mind whirring at 500 stitches per second.
I was once inspired by the bubbles in a champagne flute. See what happens? I stitch out tiny bubble after tiny bubble. All across a quilt. I’m so inspired by these bubbles I’m still stitching tiny bubbles on another quilt. Sometimes I think I’ve lost my mind. In all reality I think I’ve found it. When I picked up this beautifully marbled fabric last week I had no clue as to what I would make. Since I do a lot of whole cloth work, whole cloth it is, but what? This morning I’m sitting by this fabric, looking at it and thinking, thinking!
And, in my minds eye I see my word of the year with the tree and now I know this quilt will have a late autumn tree stitched out across the surface with the wind whipping through to create some movement. Quilterly inspiration indeed. It’ll be a little while before I get to it, but get to it I will. And then there is that baby blue Radiance.
As I mentioned the other day I’m going to share how I come up with the quilting motifs for a quilt. I’m going to start with Twilight in the Bronx which is entirely my own, move on to Tilde, Feather Zone and @play. Each of these quilt are very different and each has its own story. And Twilight certainly has a story or 5 to tell.
Twilight is my first intentional whole cloth quilt. 1 1/4 yards of solid Kona cotton, a chalk pencil, ruler, batting, thread and an idea.
Briefly the idea: to stitch out an 8 pointed star (lone star) using a variety of thread to create the body of the design. Inspiration: the batik that had the center motif and the “suns” around.
Part 1: Mark the quilt top using the ruler and chalk pencil. I marked the center of the cloth with my iron by folding it in half selvage to selvage and pressing then refolding using that center line and the ends and pressing, being careful not to press out the first pressed crease.
Using my 6 x 24 Omnigrid plastic ruler I started drawing the star points. A quick glance shows you this is a 9-patch drawn on a 45 degree angle. Each point is one half inch off the center lines. The diamonds are 1/4 inch away from each other. This was to accommodate the center motif being fused down to the cloth.
Part 2: I decided that I wanted the star to be raised so that meant trapunto. I layered a piece of Quilters Dream 100% cotton Request loft batting on the back. I didn’t do anything to hold it in place as I wanted to be able to cut a lot of it away when I was done stitching and 100% cotton batting tends to stick well to 100% cotton fabric. (When I teach quilting and we’re using fat quarters I generally don’t baste with pins or spray as the cotton sticks to cotton with out shifting)
Part 3: I liked the movement of color seen on other pieced lone stars so tried for that kind of look using the 3 colors I had: yellow, red and purple. I did this on the fly and made some decisions as I went along. Note: if I were doing this quilt now I’d be using a lot more colors of thread and perhaps splitting the diamonds in half from point to point the long way. For more movement not because I don’t like what’s going on here.
Part 4: Choosing the actual stitching motifs. I decided each color would be a different motif. If this were piece the fabric may or may not be from the same fabric line and therefore would have a different look. Each motif is something I wanted to practice and get better at stitching. Once these and the black lines defining the center spokes were all stitched in and I’d stitched around each one of the circles all extra batting was cut away, another layer of batting and the backing were layered and basted and the intense quilting began.
Part 5: I won’t go into a lot of detail here because I did in previous posts – Twilight in the Bronx was quilted twice. The black area on the lower right is evidence of the first time it was quilted. The rest of the quilting was done after I’d picked most of it out. I left some as a personal reminder and because I liked it. I sat down to stitch not quite knowing what I’d be doing motif-wise. I had no active plan for this quilt and I’ll tell you quite honestly I don’t for most quilts. When I had stitched the motif enough I moved onto another motif and/or another color.
I tried out motif after motif just because it was something I wanted to stitch and I liked it.
This quilt was completed within a year of my 40th birthday and is a personal “defining” quilting moment as “my style” is starting to emerge here. I’m still not sure what one would call that style however that’s not as important as the fact that I’m quilting and trying motifs and thread weights/colors and seeing how they play.
Looking at dates (ever thankful for my blog) I attended the Ricky Tims Quilt Seminar in May 2008 and started this quilt in early 2009. Ricky reminded us frequently over the two days that we are “smart and intelligent and you can do this!” Is there anything more important than that? Well, uh, uhm, No. There’s not.
We are smart
We are intelligent
We can do this
We can stop worrying about what others will think of our quilts and quilting. While I am well aware of the quilt police and their role in our quilting society, most of us do not encounter them on a daily basis. Oh we do hear their “voices” whispering in our ear that “this isn’t good enough” or “this doesn’t like right’ or “are you sure this motif needs to go here?!” or “this really sucks and you need to take out the seam ripper” or “this is awful and you should just toss it aside like an old rag”.
I’ve heard those voices I started telling them to go to H3LL! I started listening for my own voice and those around me who were encouraging me.
When I teach and students start showing me their flaws I quiet that voice down and show them what’s working and why so they have something beautiful to hold onto as they move on to the next quilt.
For most of our quilts “good enough” is good. And it’s enough.
Truthfully the only time that “good enough” needs to meet the seam ripper is when we’re competing because that’s different. And that needs to be thought through differently. And we’ll get there in these blog posts.
I have a confession to make: I’m having a love affair with whole cloth quilts. This passion snuck up on me, quietly whispering, “let’s see what you can do with this cloth”, “what would these threads look like on Radiance”, “did you see that thread?” Wide open spaces get me all giddy thinking about the possibilities. Whole cloth quilts have taken over my quilting. Any cloth will do add bamboo, wool or silk batting, with miles of colorful thread stitched over the surface creating one of a kind designs. I found it difficult to give into the yearnings to just quilt with so many unfinished quilts on the shelf until Melly Testa asked me the all important question, “what is this obsession with finishing?” With this new found freedom along came “Twilight in the Bronx” the first in a series of whole cloth quilts named after the New York City.
Whole Cloth Tradition:
Whole cloth quilts have long been a way for quilters to show their quilting prowess. Whether by hand or machine whole cloth work carries a certain mystique, rich in symbolism and tradition. The images used reflected the area of origin. Whole cloth quilting, trapunto, boutis and matelasse have their roots in Italy and France and came to the US through England during the colonial period. Generally whole cloth quilts were white stitched out on white cotton however many were stitched on colored cloth and were generally tone on tone. Quilters used cotton, wool or silk depending on availability and the specialness of the occasion. Whole cloth work even makes an appearance in feminine fashion in the form of petticoats with an opening in the skirt to revealing the detailed work of the petticoat. I’ve seen amazing examples of these petticoats on display at the Wadsworth Athaneum in Hartford, CT.
Many quilters still embrace traditional whole cloth quilting in white or tone on tone coloration. These quilts and textiles, whether hand or machine quilted, add to the beauty of the quilting world attesting to the skill and artistry of the quilt maker. Like pieced quilts whole cloth quilts take thought, preparation and skill to create.
Diane Guaduynski, Karen McTavish and Sue McCarty have all created award winning, beautiful, tradition honoring whole cloth quilts. Each one of these quilters has created masterpiece whole cloth quilts with Diane earning the title of “Master Quilter” from the National Quilt Association. Personally I am in awe of their work as quilters and as teachers. There are many quilters who are approaching whole cloth in a different way, incorporating a wide variety of background fabrics, thread weight, color and batting choices. Sue McCarty’s Tribute to Tolkein is an amazing example of contemporary whole cloth quilting using mostly metallic thread to create the intricately detailed wedding scene. Sue Patten comes to mind with her ZenSuedle quilts and classes. From Sue’s website I create “continuous line, designs and fillers to create your own one of a kind ZenSuedle whole cloth quilt”.
The practical side of the process of whole cloth quilting
Every type and style of quilting has a process, a way of doing things that is needed for a well made quilt. Learning each skill, from choosing fabrics to binding, takes time to learn and become proficient. Each quilter over time takes those learned skills and makes them their own, finding which styles, tools and processes work best for the style of quilting they love. Whole cloth quilting is no different in that regard, the skills focus on design and the quilting. The next few paragraphs cover practice, inspiration, decisions, and choices for batting, batting thread and binding. It is important to note that your process may be different and I wholeheartedly give you permission to figure out your style. “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing….sing a song” Just quilt, quilt your heart out!
There’s no getting around the dreaded “p” word – practice.
When I need to figure out the stitching path of a new to me quilting motif I take pen or pencils to paper and spend time working out the stitching path. I do this both right and left handed as I machine quilt with both hands. As I’m practicing other designs, complimentary motifs will crop up; I call this process “mindful practice”. I have sketchbooks filled with these images that inspire new whole cloth quilts. When thinking through a whole cloth quilt the designs are focused and intentional. Or not. Different colors and line thicknesses will help get the idea of what the quilt will look like when it’s finished. Using pencils with erasers offers the opportunity of changing things up prior to sitting down and stitching. This type of practice gets the creative juices flowing, like stretching before exercising.
Inspiration and Design
I wish that complete quilting ideas would pop into my head with a clear understanding of motif and color placement. Ideas develop slowly, like making sour dough bread. The starter must be maintained and fed several days prior to use so that the old sour is replaced, yeast has time to develop and flavors the new ingredients. Once the sour is ready for use the next step is to leaven the bread being made from the sour. The end result is well worth the effort – the aroma filling the house and tasting the bread fresh from the oven! The design process for a whole cloth quilt (any quilt) is the same way, it takes time to develop from inspiration (sour starter) to finished quilt top (tasting the bread).
Inspiration presents itself in a multitude of ways; a piece of fabric, wrought iron, the moon, traditional piecing patterns, flowers, trees and the list goes on. When I’m out and about I keep my camera with me to capture images that inspire. As I take the image I’m mentally trying to think through the stitching process. I usually have a sketchbook, sharpie pens or color pencils at hand to try out these new to me motifs. At a quilting retreat an image of a nautilus shell caught my attention, the spiral shape and connections set me wondering how this could be stitched out. Looking through the sketchbooks this shape became a recurring them in my doodling and has worked into my quilting.
Oh the moon, the beautiful moon with its bright, reflective light. Infrequently I can see the moon from my office window which faces toward Manhattan. I needed an idea for a quilt, the next in the “City” series. I knew I wanted to keep the eight pointed star from “Twilight in the Bronx” but the next part eluded me. One morning from my office window the moon hung so low in the horizon it appeared to be resting on the tips of the Manhattan skyline. In a moment I knew what this quilt would look like, its name, “Moon Over Manhattan” and the star would be stitched out in shades of gray with several star points being obscured by the curve of the moon.
Sometimes inspiration comes from a thought or word. A friend mentioned the word spiral and several ideas popped into my head. From this one word and a set size @play (recently published in Machine Quilting Unlimited) came to be.
With any quilt we all go through a decision making process including: end use of the quilt, size of the finished quilt, cloth and batting. Knowing that each decision will effect the overall look of the quilt, oh heck, seriously I just wing it. Size is based on width the cloth; batting whatever I have on hand and thread, a well stocked stash lends itself to greater creativity.
This is where the fun begins. No matter what, I have a blank canvas and unlimited options. While cotton is traditional here in the states there are so many options including satin, silk, silk/cotton blend, lycra, suede (micro fiber). This is where fat quarters come in handy allowing the opportunity to try a new-to-me fabric without a huge investment. For the back use a
I have cotton, polyester, bamboo, wool and silk on hand so there are plenty of options. A small piece like this provides a great opportunity to experiment with batting, learning what the batting will do in the quilt, how the loft affects the look of the quilt and which battings provide structure and which provide loft. An aside about batting: if it comes from a plant (cotton, bamboo, soy) it’s flat and has a memory; if it comes from an animal (worms, sheep, alpaca) it’s fluffy and doesn’t have a memory. With polyester all bets are off it can be flat or fluffy because the companies can do anything with the fiber. The polyester is meant for another quilt, so no poly. Bamboo will provide structure; it has a memory similar to cotton. Wool will provide structure; has a loft and has no memory. Silk provides structure, loft and has no memory. We all know that when cotton is folded and hand pressed the line can be seen, and a quilt with cotton batting that is folded will retain those lines even when it’s hung even for long periods of time. Neither wool nor silk have memory so when a quilt has been folded for a while and is hung the fold lines will ease out from the weight of the quilt. For quilts where structure is important use two layers of battings in the quilt, this is particularly useful in quilts intended for competition as it is more likely that the interlocking of the stitches will remain in the batting rather than showing on the top or back of the quilt.
Needles & Thread
It’s important to pair needles and thread for good, quality stitches. If the thread is too large for the needle the thread will bounce and skipped stitches will happen. If the thread is too small for the needle a larger than necessary hole will be left and pin dotting may occur looking as though you’re having a tension problem. Rule of thumb: when using a heavy thread use a large needle; fine thread use a smaller needle.
Expect to adjust the tension of your machine: machine tension is set to 60 weight polyester used for garment making, this is a fine thread. Most of the thread used in quilting is much heavier and may require tension adjustments, usually reducing the tension whether on the top or in the bobbin. Even if a home sewing machine has self adjusting tension it’s important to understand that in the quilting process tension adjustments will be necessary. If the manufacturers didn’t want us adjusting tension there wouldn’t be any way for the tension to be adjusted on the machine and there is only 1 machine that I’ve ever seen that did not have some way to adjust the tension, and it needed it.
There are so many good tools available for marking quilt tops. Always mark the quilt before its basted unless using some kind of paper product or loose chalk powder which allows you to mark as you’re quilting. As a general personal rule I use chalk pencils however sometimes the markings don’t show or remove too easily with my hot hands, in this case I use some type of washable or heat removable marker. There may be issues with the ink type marking pens, particularly if the quilt is basted when marking. Try a variety, do a little bit of research and see what quilters are saying and find what works for you.
What do I mark you may be asking? You might (not) be surprised to learn, as little as possible. With each of the quilts mentioned already I marked the underlying structure. For “Twilight in the Bronx” and “Moon Over Manhattan” that means the star and circle; “@play” I drafted on huge sheets of paper, placed the paper under the fabric and drew in the spirals (not the nautilus) and the flying geese. That’s it.
Let’s Get Going
Now that the planning is done and the quilt is marked it’s time to stitch your quilt. This is where the fun begins. Relax your shoulders, breathe, blink and enjoy the process of creating a small whole cloth quilt that reflects your style and color choices. Don’t let a small whole cloth quilt fool you they take hours and hours to get quilted. Slow down and enjoy the process. If something isn’t working remember that “a seam ripper is a quilters best friend”, take the stitches out. Take this time to ponder what’s working and what’s not working and make some simple changes. Being willing to listen to the quilt and make changes as you’re going along will work better than trying to stick to a “set plan”. When quilting Twilight in the Bronx, Moon Over Manhattan and @play I listed to both internal (my own thought process) and external voices (friends in one of my mini-groups) and made changes for the better on both quilts.
With so much stitching it may be necessary to block your quilt. Blocking is a process where the quilt is wetted, pinned to carpet or covered foam insulation sheets so that the quilt is square (use a measuring tape, ruler and t-pins) and dried. It’s best to run fans over the surface of the quilt to aid the drying process. With a small quilt pinning to your design wall or over sized ironing board and letting it dry will work. There are some great tutorials for this.
Once the quilt is blocked it’s time to give consideration to finishing the quilt. Before making a decision on how to treat the edge of the quilt take a photo to gain some perspective, distance from the quilt. Does the quilt need the binding to look complete? If the answer is yes a traditional binding can frame a small quilt beautifully giving the quilt a visual stopping point. If the answer is no, then “facing”, the binding is pulled to the back of the quilt, is the better option. Facing will visually extend the lines of the quilt giving as much visual impact as a traditional binding. Facing is easy and there are a few great tutorials on line. If you’ve decided this quilt will be hung on a wall this is the point to add a sleeve, remember to give consideration to the depth of the rod this will be hung on and allow for that in cutting and stitching the sleeve. If this is meant for competition, check the rules of the show for their requirements.
It’s time to just enjoy your finished whole cloth quilt. That’s right just sit back and enjoy your quilt. Post photos on your blog or on facebook and let us enjoy your quilt too.