Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hexies and hugs

Job number one after basting is stitching closely around
the perimeter of the quilt, or stabilizing. I'm always surprised
at the resistance to this crucial step from students: "Why do
I need to do that?!" THIS is why. You can't quilt a ruffle. 
This grandmother's flower garden quilt was so much fun to quilt. Anne, my client, was so easy to work with. She had drawn a diagram of the quilting she wanted, which I really appreciate. But I know my strengths and limitations, and as a freehander, I couldn't deliver. So, we regrouped, opting for feathers. The morning I was going to start quilting them, I woke up with a plan: small plumes that alternate direction. Apparently, my subconscious had been working on it in my sleep. I've learned to act on such ideas for best results.

In the printed fabrics, I quilted a ribbon candy design in the outer rings, an echoed pumpkin seed in the inner rings, and a simple flower in the centers and in between the prints, for continuity. Quilting the prints stabilized the quilt, and the echo quilting around the feathers nailed down what the ribbon candy did not.

The rewards of custom quilting are more than just monetary. When a happy client hugs me, I know the magic happened again.

In this case, the client intended to forgo a traditional binding and just turn the ends of the top
and backing under and hand-sew them closed. So I couldn't quilt closely around the edge.
Instead, I pinned the edges down and quilted up to a quarter-inch from the edge.

The nearly finished quilt. Most of the background fabrics have the sheen of cotton sateen,
which makes the feathers leap out of the quilt. The quilting added a lot of movement.

I quilted the prints in gray thread and the background with bright white polyesters, a thinner one for the echo quilting. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Rally Day With Kimberly Einmo

One of Kimberly Einmo's modern quilts that she used
to illustrate her point that quilting plays a really
important part because of the ample white space.  
Kim explained how Judy Madsen's heavy quilting with double batting and
labor-intensive ruler work can take 40 to 50 hours' worth of work to complete,
thereby raising the price considerably.  

I went with a couple of friends to the Dallas quilt guild meeting Thursday to hear Kimberly Einmo talk about sewing rooms and creative spaces.

On the way back to Fort Worth, I was wondering whether this what Dallas typically looks like on a Thursday evening. Flashing lights of police cars downtown and lining Interstate-30 through Grand Prairie and Arlington. Such a delightful evening turned a sad, shocking corner with unspeakable ... I don't have the words. Grace and love to Dallas.

So, after too many hours watching the news (I worked in newspapers for 20 years), I was really in the mood to go to Rally Day, which is put on annually by the Texas Association of Quilt Guilds, this time in Mesquite.

We got a chance to buy tickets for so many local guilds' donation quilts, win prizes, shop, visit, laugh and be together.

The speaker, Kimberly Einmo, was so cheerful, informative and entertaining. We were treated to a trunk show, not only of her quilt designs, but inherently to the work of a range of machine quilters: her usual quilter, Birgit Schuller of Germany, Leah Day, Judy Madsen and others.

She emphasized the importance of quilting in modern quilts, whose ample white space naturally sets the stage for over-the-top quilting. She did us longarmers a favor, encouraging quilt toppers to "get out your credit cards" and take those stacks of tops to quilters for hire and get them done -- and come to grips with the cost of labor-intensive work.

Kim's Website is at
A lot of ruler work here by Judy Madsen on another of Kim's simple but striking quilts.

Kim was kind enough to pose for a photo with me. Thanks, Kim, for a wonderful day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Primitives on exhibit

This gorgeous wool applique quilt will be part of a special exhibit of primitive/folk art style quilts at the 2016 International Quilt Festival in Houston. Fine Feathered Friends by Jolene Mershon of Mansfield, Texas, was one of 22 quilts chosen for the exhibit.

This quilt is alluring for many reasons, chief among them  the woolen fabrics. I could tell right away they'd been culled from clothing, not just purchased in quilt stores. The backgrounds are Daiwabo Japanese taupes. The combination of wool and yarn-dyed cottons create a textural feast for the eyes -- and a different kind of challenge to quilt.

I outlined quilted the applique, and quilted in some details in the larger applique pieces. Leaving big pieces unquilted is bad for a quilt. Uneven quilting will not only appear unsightly, but it creates weak spots, areas where the elements will pull and wear. For example, in the photo below, see the benefit of only a small amount of quilting in the orange flower, leaves and the eggs in the nest.

Where the background fabric already had textural pattern, I quilted along the pattern, not against it. And one of my favorite things: diagonal rows of channel quilting in the border. Three rows of lines close together, then a channel of unquilted space, make for a sensational traditional border design.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beautiful background

This delightful, summery quilt, made by Barbara McClellan, posed a challenge: What to do with all that white space. We had decided to put seashells in between the blocks and frame them with 3 concentric squares. Tiny echo quilting around the shells makes them pop up like trapunto.

The remaining white space was still considerable, and needed a filler with a substantial pattern. To drive home the tropical island theme, we found a background design, shown in the photo below, that resembles shells. This one is from Irena Bluhm's book, Blooming Background Designs. It starts with a small teardrop that is echoed closely over and over, varied in size and direction. It's fun to do, it creates a wonderful texture and it easily adapts to irregular spaces. I used So Fine thread by Superior.

In the rest of the quilt, I crosshatched the pineapples, and veined and outlined the leaves. I quilted double continuous curves in the outer triangles, a wavy line in the frame, and two overlapping and interlocking rows of figure eights in the outer border.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Part-custom, part-overall

Members of one guild I belong to make quilts to give to injured service personnel. Most of these quilts are made of red, white and blue fabrics, but some are made with other color choices. We hope this cheerful quilt will make some soldier very happy.

Before considering designs, I auditioned threads and decided on Superior So Fine #510. This aqua  looks good on all the fabrics and it contrasts nicely on the yellow backing. Something organic seemed the obvious choice for an overall, so I set out to quilt a vine.

I always look for ways to add custom touches to any quilt. This approach is what I call part-custom, part-overall. It's a way to boost an overall design without too much extra effort. I started quilting leaves and swirly tendrils, and when I got to the flower-print fabric, I outlined the flowers and echoed them, and then resumed quilting leaves.

When I got to the darkest blue fabrics, I freehanded some other flowers.

Lastly, the back of the quilt is a wholecloth -- two great sides to say thank you so much for your service. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Treasured chests

This is a quilt for a little girl. My client asked for custom, but basic quilting. So, I ditch quilted around the mermaids and between the border and backgrounds, I'm doing swirls in the background, curls in the hair, starfish details in the stars, waves in the green triangles, clamshells in the bodies, but then I became stuck ... how am I going to quilt these little mermaids? Specifically, their little mermaid chests?
Two ideas came to mind: Quilt a heart or a seashell there. I'm leaning toward hearts because they'll be fast, simple and sweet, more what the client requested. I can easily freehand those, too. If I were to do a seashell, I'd need to pick just the right one (that patch is 3 inches wide, so it can't be too detailed), size it with a proportion wheel, go to a copy shop and enlarge or reduce the pattern, line it up for the machine's laser ... it would slow things down considerably, take up more time and raise the price.

Plus, the more cute the quilt, the greater the chance the quilt won't get used -- at least that's been my experience. And I want kids to love their quilts into rags.

If anyone has other ideas for such a space, I'd love to hear them.

In the photo below, see the adorable backing fabric, with seahorses and octopuses and little schools of fish. Now, those would be great motifs to put in the white backgrounds if all-out custom quilting were the order of the day. 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Old Yeller

This much white space cries out for showy quilting, and I had a field day on this huge quilt. I thought double cross hatching the background of  the applique blocks would be really good, but shortly after I started, I was intoning, "What was I thinking?" It was an unbelievable amount of work! It's a rare day when the client says I can mark her quilt top, and I was eager to try out Blue Line Eraser. The directions say not to mark heavily, and I didn't think I was, but it took repeated applications to get the marks out. And the fabric miraculously didn't bleed. I opted for Hobbs wool batting so I'd get a trapunto effect without all the work. And gosh, this was so much work. But it's a wholecloth on the back, and that's always worth it. And here is a detail shot of the border.