22 August, 2014

Friday Favourites - Susan Connor Linen Throw

As a quilter there seems to be no real reason to purchase a blanket. Sure, most of us quilters give away more quilts than we keep. But with all the book quilts and family requests, there are a few dozen quilts in my house. So, really, I didn't need to buy another blanket.

Then I saw Susan Connor's work. And I needed a birthday pick me up a few months back. And well, it is just gorgeous.

We've had a gorgeous summer here, so even a linen throw has been superfluous. I use it for a bit in the morning when I decide to take my tea outside. And this past week I was under the weather and there was a sudden chill in the air, so I lived with this gorgeousness wrapped around me. It feels so luxurious. I have a feeling I will use this a lot more as the weather starts to turn. Instead of a sweater, and before I need my swobe, this will be on my shoulders.

Susan starts with a linen and block prints her own designs on it. She has a selection of colours and designs. As tempting as navy was, I was smitten with this aqua colour the second she previewed it on Instagram. And this particular print has the feel of an infinity symbol to me and I really like that aspect. And the raw edges show off the weave of the linen beautifully as the warp and weft are different colours.

Keeping her work personal and on the small scale for collections allow her to produce nearly custom products, with an ever changing inventory. Supporting a small scale artist with the purchase of their creations is definitely my preferred method of shopping for goods.

Now, if only I could convince Susan to send her scraps my way...

18 August, 2014

Giant Dresdens Quilt

Giant Dresdens for Baba O
62'' x 90''

Sometimes quilts are really hard to give away. And sometimes you are so excited to do just that. Not because you want the quilt off your hands, but because you know the recipient will love it. Then there are the times you are sad to see the quilt go, but it is totally worth it because you get to see your cousins you hardly see in order to pass it on to their family. Sometimes.

I come from a giant extended family. My mom, an only child, became the 11th child of her aunt and uncle because that's how things work in big Ukrainian families on neighbouring farms. So I grew up with that family as mine as well. And while almost all of the family was in Saskatchewan, there was one set of cousins with us in Edmonton. We spent a lot of time together growing up, dancing, eating, playing, tormenting each other, laughing.

A few months back they asked me if I would make them a quilt for the Baba on the other side of the family as they are celebrating her 90th birthday this fall. Even though I don't really do commissions I wouldn't say no. Plus, I got to play with some ideas and that is always fun.

Three big Dresden plates, made with the Fat Cat Ruler. Gorgeous fabrics and loads of negative space to quilt on the long arm. Pretty quick to get together  - I think each Dresden took me about an hour to make, then only appliqué time. I machine appliquéd, so that wasn't very long either. Just 3 blocks to sew together and long strips for the side. And that was it.

I have a feeling there will be more Dresdens in my future. Maybe. I might need another request from the cousins in the midst of the other deadlines...

My dot to dot quilting on the long arm needs a fair amount of work, but I'm feeling very comfortable with all over free motion work. It is quite liberating and such a thrill to have it come together quickly. For this twin size quilt I was off the machine in slightly less than 4 hours, including my loading time and breaks for texts and instagram.  I used what I call a Paisley pattern, and my long arm teacher calls  headbands. I've used it before, but on my home machine.

The back was pieced with what I had at home, including this Amy Butler print from years ago. I bought it for another project that never came to fruition. I was worried it would be too girly for a 90 year old, but my cousins assured me that Baba O will like it. A few extra inserts of fabric that was also used on the front to bring it up to size.

On the front, in the centre of the Dresdens I wrote out birthday wishes. This way there is no need to flip it over to see the real reason Baba O is receiving this quilt. On the back are the labels - one with wishes from the family and one with maker and care info. As I pointed out, the quilt is likely to outlive even them, so the history needs to go with the quilt. But thankfully my cousin's wife has very neat handwriting so she actually wrote out the labels instead of me! I stitched those on over deck cocktails with my cousins. A gaggle of our kids eating popsicles and popcorn and playing in the backyard. Our conversations full of the stories of now and yesterday. Love, history, and the future all coming together, thanks to a quilt.

13 August, 2014

Creativity in Quilting Input Needed

Dear readers, I need your help. I've got something in the works and I'm looking for input. Any feedback you can provide would be really helpful.

Not everyone uses patterns when quilting. And some people never use patterns. I know we've discussed this in the past, but I really want to dig deep into this. Pretend I am your therapist, tell me your real reasons for sticking with patterns. Are you afraid? What are you afraid of? If you decide to go out on your own does anything beat you down? Do you hold yourself back? Does someone else hold you back?

I'm looking for what quilters perceive as the limitations to their own creativity.  Because, whether you believe it or not, we are all creative when it comes to our craft. It's just that not everyone sees that in themselves. I want to know why not.

In the flip side, many have no qualms at all about creativity. They feel confident when it comes to doing their own thing. What about their approach or mindset makes these people different?

As I said, any input you provide be valuable to me. If you prefer to comment anonymously I totally understand. And feel free to send me an email directly if that is your preference.


11 August, 2014

Abstract Painting with Kids

While many of my American friends are seeing the end of summer, and the return to school for their kids, we've still got 3 more weeks of summer vacation. I've been trying to make the most of it. For both myself and the kids. Field trips, swimming, lazy days, and new creative activities.

Last week we started abstract painting. To be fair, I think the kids have been doing this for a while! But this time we did a bit of research on abstract painting, discussed emotions and their expression, and I used real, ADULT acrylic paints on canvas. Having fancy supplies goes a long way.

To start with, the girls picked colours to express an emotion. Our first emotion was happy. Yellows, oranges, red, pink, turquoise, and silver. Bright, shiny colours. My only bit of control over the project was that I doled out the colours on the canvas. So I dotted it where they told me. Then they went to town.

They ground the paint into the canvas, they gingerly spread the paint, they used broad strokes. They played. And I resisted - badly - all attempts to direct their activities. That was very, very difficult. In part I wanted to participate. I also wanted to interrupt and give directions constantly. But I held off and only spoke when adding more paint or to emphasize the emotion they were conveying.

They filled the canvas, making sure no white spots remained. They touched it up with silver. And then, because they didn't quite get the notion of abstract, they added some lettering.

You know what? They were happy doing it. And I was happy watching them. It was a new form of creativity in this house. I think my oldest, especially, loved the idea of expressing something without having to be literal in her art. Because when you are 8 you are usually literal. This gave her an unexpected freedom.

The whole idea for the project came through Pinterest. Yes, I've finally joined Pinterest. And lo and behold, I saw this idea on a random pin one of the first days I was on there. No instructions, just the image of the paint dots, painting, and the canvas. Because Pinterest is still new for me I actually acted  on the inspiration!

To start with we looked up some abstract painters, classic and current. Like Kandisky, Lisa Congdon, and Marissa Anne from Creative Thursday. We talked about what one can do with just paint and about expressing feelings or ideas. It all felt rather liberating.

We've since done more canvases. (A friend of mine gave me the tip that we could buy small canvases at the dollar store. That certainly cuts down on the cost once we invested in the paints.) I still police the paint use as a certain Evil Genius has a tendency to want to use ALL the paint. I do not, however, paint myself with them. I find my kids compare my work with theirs and I don't think that is fair to them at all. They skip the adult versus kid part of that and get deflated because they perceive mine as better. So I let them be and wander around their own creativity.

If you are on Pinterest, you can follow me. I am trying to fill my boards with all sorts of inspiration. More pins daily. And let me know if you are on there too.

08 August, 2014

Friday Favourites - Saltwater Sandals

The only reason I have these sandals is because of social media. Until a few years ago I'd never heard of Saltwater Sandals. But there I was checking out Flickr and Twitter and even blogs and I kept seeing photos of feet in these pretty sandals. A little bit old fashioned, but rather fashionable too. Well, in my opinion at least.

It took a year before I could buy them. And even when I did it was a convoluted process because they are practically impossible to get in Canada, at least in any functional size or a cool colour. I couldn't even order them off a US site because they all wanted US credit cards and shipping addresses. That's where the internet came in handy again. Because of this blog and my quilting I have friends all over the US now. And some of them are even willing to spend money on my behalf!

So thanks to Jen I started getting an annual order. Sandals for both me and the girls. We did skip this year though because my two pairs (I have yellow as well) are still in such good condition even with near daily wear for 3 months straight in the summer.

Saltwater sandals are so comfortable. They aren't for people with arch issues though as they have zero support. But I found there to be no breaking in.

They are leather, but they can get wet. Like, stepping in a lake wet. Or running through the splash park wet. The latter was why my girls liked them so much.

Me, I like them because they are so pretty. And frankly, it's pretty awesome that I don't see anyone else here in Calgary with them. I do like to be unique.

07 August, 2014

The Oldest UFO

Generally, I like to call my unfinished projects WIPS, or Works in Progress, not UFOs.  This is because I actually like having a catalogue of things to pick from when I get the chance to sew. It doesn't stress me out - usually.  But this, this project must definitely be called a UFO.

I've been quilting for 16 years now. This project is 15 years old.

Going again into the Way, Way Back Machine this project started in 1999, when people were all up in arms over Y2K. Quilters, of course, put their positive spin on it and started swaps. Put 25 mini charms in an envelope, repeat that 80 times, and swap them out. Bang, 2000 charms!

These days people call it Scrap Vomit. I call it a bag of envelopes I found buried in my garage.

(To find out what else I found in my garage check out my Instagram feed. Oh boy. #thingsifindinmygarage)

The smart people with their Y2K swaps took the charms as they came in and sewed together the 25 into one block. Then they were able to quickly put the quilt top together, and keep things manageable. I, of course, wanted to get all fancy. I have sketches and math on trying to figure out creative ways to put my top together. And that's why they are all still in envelopes.

Now it is time to move this into the WIP stack. But me, being me, I need to catalogue all of this first. Into my sketchbook will go the addresses as I unpack. And then I think this will become my next Leader/Ender project. Let's hope it doesn't take another 15 years to finish this!

Update: I found a book where I wrote down all the people I swapped with! Now to just get these organized in piles.

Did any of you participate in a Y2K swap?

05 August, 2014

Mountain Meadows Quilt Top

This is Mountain Meadows. A loverly quilt top finally finished. I had to go in the Way, Way Back machine to figure out when I started it. My initial sketch and images were made 3 years ago. And I collected the fabric over 2 years ago to make a few blocks. Then it sat and sat and sat. We had the great fortune of a handful of mountain trips this spring and summer and the original inspiration of the mountain meadows was on my mind.

When The Modern Quilt Guild asked me to do a Webinar this quilt popped into my head. Pulling it out and working on it helped me formulate the presentation: Improv With Intention. So I worked hard to get it done in time for the Webinar. It was well worth the effort.

(It measures roughly 55'' x 75''.)

These were my original inspiration images. Hikes in the mountains on sunny days. Meadows filled with small, colourful flowers. Expanses of grass and weeds and plants in varying shades of green. Vistas so beautiful but little tiny bits of life stealing attention. Just how to capture that in a quilt?

In the Webinar I discuss the process of making the quilt - from inspiration to the final top. It isn't as straightforward as one might think. If you are a Modern Quilt Guild Member you can access the Webinar for free now, even if you didn't join me last week. To access it make sure you log in and join the Community site. Then click under Resources and there it is. Not only do you get to see more images and learn about my process, you get to hear my awesome Canadian accent.

It was actually quite appropriate that this quilt was revealed through The Modern Quilt Guild. All of the green fabric in this quilt was generously given to me by quilters, readers of this blog. I knew I wanted green solid scraps and I had absolutely no green solids. To buy them all would have been impossible. So, thanks to the internet I just asked if anyone was willing to share, and boy did you! Packages arrived for weeks and I had a lot of fun sorting through and organizing by value. Some of you sent pieces larger than 1/2 yard cuts! It was so generous and shows exactly how the spirit and kindness of quilters, not to mention the creativity, is fuelled on line. Exactly what comes to mind, for me, when I think of the Modern Quilt Guild.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. I truly appreciate it.