30 March, 2015

Playing With Pinwheels in Quilting - On CreativeLive

When was the last time you played? I don't mean get on the floor and play with the kids or grandkids? I don't mean kicking around the soccer ball either. No, I mean going into your fabric and making something for fun; quilting without a quilt a mind?

I'm going to venture a guess that it hasn't been lately. For all the things I start - and I do start a lot - they almost always are started with a finished quilt in mind. I'm not sewing for the sake of sewing. I don't experiment or play much. And this is so, so wrong.

That's because we learn so much when we play. Taking away the play instinct for a child isn't a good thing, we can all agree on that. So why do we think it is okay to do that for ourselves? By playing as quilters we get the chance to explore colour, construction techniques, shapes, lines, negative space, secondary designs, and our own challenges and joys. Instead of trying a new quilt pattern to experiment with just one or two of those things, just play. See what happens when you let go of the idea that everything has to be a quilt.

It is the move past this idea that everything has to be something that has to be tackled first. In this CreativeLive class, Playing with Pinwheels in Quilting, I want to help you do just that. We take a simple, common block - the Pinwheel - and turn it into so many different things. There is one basic way to do it, and then a million other ways. While I preparing for the class I had a hard time stopping. One idea begets another and another. Even while teaching the class on set I had even more ideas. 

Guess what? Playing is FUN!

Now I feel like I could take so many of the ideas from the class and turn them into quilts of their own. The blocks I made may or may not turn into a quilt as they are. I, frankly, don't care. They represent my own little quilty playground. Not to mention design opportunity. For now, they are on my design wall to remind me that play is fun, that exploring an idea or a shape is worthwhile, and that sometimes things are simply pretty.

If you have any questions about the CreativeLive class, don't hesitate to ask. And all feedback is welcome. They are new with quilting classes and constructive comments can only help. Did you know there are free previews of all the classes? 

You can also share reviews and your inspired work with the CreativeLive community. I keep up with the course pages, so please share your work (in addition to blogs and social media if you are active there).

27 March, 2015

Quilts Under Construction - 1Q 2015

In the interest of staying on top of things, not to mention full disclosure, here is the current status of Quilts Under Construction in my studio. Except when deadlines take over, I think I'm doing well at tackling at least one of these projects once a week.

As I wrote the list I got excited and thought I'd made all sorts of progress as the numbers seemed lower. Then I got to the part where I added the projects I started. Oh well. I'm still happy! And, let's not forget my new obsession with garment sewing taking away some quilting time.

Quilt Tops Ready for Quilting

1. Cosmos Blocks
2. Improv Sampler
3. Checkerboard from Sunday Morning Quilts
4. Slaveship Quilt  - I did buy some Valdani thread for some hand quilting on this and nearly started after watching the Book of Negroes miniseries.
5. The Evil Genius' Triangle Quilt - now that she has her own bed she wants this finished. But it is isn't big enough for her double bed. So she's picked out side borders and I just need to sew them on.
6. A low volume rainbow mini quilt that I've never shared with you.
7. Giant Hexagons - I did actually come with a plan for quilting this the other day and now I'm excited to move forward.
8. One red/purple turquoise quilt intended for magazine publication
9. Cirrus Solids Pinwheel top
10. Solid Sunday Morning - I even have the back made already. Will be doing this one very soon.

Quilts Being Quilted

11. Low Volume Circles - I took this out and looked at it once.
12. Antonio's Quilt - Still waiting for me to come back to this.

Waiting for Binding

13. All voile quilt - just have the last side of the binding to finish, so I'm counting it here. Then I will photograph and share. So close to being done.

Blocks and Process

14. Mid Mod Bee - This is moving up the list in my head. Some setting ideas are percolating...
15. Hand Pieced Diamonds - I found the first section I made, it had gone missing/got buried in the studio.
16. More Cosmic Burst blocks
17. Name quilt for my daughter
18. Chandelier quilt
19. Liberty Circles - I actually finished all the circles for this, playing with my new machine. If I could decide on a background fabric I would finish this top up.
20. Respite - a project started in a Bill Kerr design workshop
21. Pieced Stars
22. The Water Quilt
23. Low Volume Shoeman's Puzzle/Slab blocks - I made more blocks and plan to make at least another 21 more.
24. A values quilt in neutrals - After teaching this again at QuiltCon I have no more classes scheduled in the next few months. I've kept this out to try to get a new top together.
25. Green/Yellow/Orange Improv blocks (Class sample, so I keep adding more blocks each time I teach the class) - My son's favourite colour is orange these days and his room is painted green, so these blocks are sitting at the front of my brain lately.
26. Edges/Studio Stash Play
27. Beach Grass Take 2
28. Y2K quilt - About 12 rows made. Of 50.
29. Another leaders and enders project, intended to be like Up, Up, and Away from Sunday Morning Quilts
30. Round and Round blocks - Up to 13 of these now.
31. Snippets on Dates - Just pressed another round of these. I'm curious as to how big things would be if I spent a few hours getting them all together.
32. Circle Lattice - Finished two blocks now, and started the third.
33. Leftovers from Modern Paris - These may come into play soon as the couple I made the quilt for are now expecting a baby.
34. Orange Circles from Craftsy/Perfect Circles class samples - I think these will stay class samples. Or not.
35. Gee's Bend inspired blocks after my trip to Alabama - I made up the small blocks into 1 large block, but now I think it needs more.
36. Paperless paper piecing block from my class with Cristy Flincher. I think it needs to be the start of a medallion quilt.
37. The girls' clothes turned into a quilt with the Gee's Bend quilters.
38. A Victory Spin quilt in progress for a baby that is already a few months old!
39. Improv work with Cotton and Steel Fabrics that I started for my CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics class.
40. Blue Improv - pulled out some class sample I've used over the years and played with them for CreativeLive Improv Quilting Basics. Now I think I have a plan for them.
41. The X-Plus blocks I used in the Creative Live Quilting with Low Volume Fabrics class.
42. A stack of Doe from Carolyn Friedlander and some precious screen prints from all over to play with.
43. A whole bunch of pinwheels that I'm playing with. Started as prep for my CreativeLive Pinwheel Play class.

Finished or Moved out of the studio

Donated an Amy Butler store sample I bought years ago and never quilted.

Values Plus - This is finished, but I've yet to photograph and share it here.
QuiltCon Quilt
Two magazine projects I can't share yet. Plus another one that is almost the same as the magazine project.
Caterpillar - technically finished this in 2014, but I hadn't shared it yet.
Ride the Waves -  technically finished this in 2014, but I hadn't shared it yet.

Two Linden sweatshirts and a dress.

25 March, 2015

The Third Circle Lattice block

And another Circle Lattice block. Just can't get enough. Once you make two, you might as well make four, right? That is my plan, at least.

It took me longer than I would have liked to finish up the second one, only because there were a lot of quilts to bind. That took up a lot of hand work time and nearly killed my wrist. The longer time, however, doesn't bother me. That is indeed the point - to slow down (and savour each stitch).

This time I switched up the fabric. I still totally love the New York City fabric from Samarra Khaja. Even with all that face time spent with it, I am not at all bored. Lucky for me, I was also able to get more of it. So I have enough for the 4 planned blocks, and then some. This time the great fabric is making the circle lattice instead of being relegated to the background. Instead of unicorns in New York, the city is taking over the forest. Hmm, there is a political message in that...

For those of you new here, the block comes from Carolyn Friedlander's book, Savor Each Stitch. And it has taken me 6 months of hand appliqué here and there to make the 2 blocks so far.

23 March, 2015

Improv Quilting Basics - On CreativeLive

Oh, Improv!

After years of teaching improv to quilters I know firsthand that it isn't something that comes instinctively or easy to many. I also know that it isn't as difficult as many believe either. It is a technique that can be taught and learned, if you embrace it and not fight it.

My latest CreativeLive class is all about Improv Quilting Basics. I walk you through all the steps from preparing fabric to turning blocks into a quilt top and even quilting tips. So often I see improv discussions that talk about the process, but they never move beyond making a block. There is very little public discussion on how to actually turn those efforts into a quilt. That discussion is precisely the bulk of this class.

Whether you want to go with total improv, are looking for more structure, or just want to play and see what happens, you can get direction for all that from this class.

The studio students worked on two different projects in teams. You will see how they went from a pile of fabric to this small tops/start of big tops in just a few hours. The first group - Karen and Tracey - worked with some neutrals. It was a collection of solids and near solids that I put together with some fabrics from the Calligraphy challenge on Spoonflower, hosted by Uppercase Magazine. (In my head it was called the Ink quilt.) They worked from a pure improv standpoint - they cut up fabric, sewed it back together, then puzzled it to turn it into a quilt top.

Nicki and Michelle worked on a stack of low-volume fabrics (a nice follow-up to the Quilting with Low Volume Fabrics class) with pops of red. The combination was from a student in Inuvik and I'd wanted to see it in action again. In their case they built up their improv blocks and we squared them up. In the class we talk all about the tips and tricks for building improv slabs this way and considerations when putting them together. And look, they've finished what they've started too!

The whole time the students were sewing I was playing myself. You get to see that too. I show yet another way to put a quilt top together and discuss more options. Not to mention a tiny trunk show of some of my favourite improv quilts.

At the end of the day I want my students in Improv Quilting Basics to feel totally comfortable working improvisationally. That means different things to different people. But having improv in your skill set can mean so many things. It doesn't just have to mean that you make slabs or totally improvised quilt tops. It is about embracing a spirit that means you don't freak out when you run out of background fabric, or gives a you language to translate your inspiration. Improv means trusting the process.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I let the studio students keep the work they made. I only asked that when they finished that these quilts be donated to charity.

19 March, 2015

Solid Sunday Morning Top

The nice thing about so many Quilts Under Construction is that I can work on nearly anything, depending on the mood I'm in. Last week I folded up all the quilts in the house. It made me realize just how many low volume options there are here. It made me want to play on something decidedly NOT low volume. Variety is the spice of life.

Not to mention that I want some quilts on the girls' beds that are not light and show every spec of spring mud and dog hair.

That meant I pulled out my all solids version of Sunday Morning. It was also the kind of mindless sewing I needed after tackling some garment sewing.

One night I made a few more sets of blocks. After counting I realized I was only 5 blocks short of making this a full size quilt. Rather than dig out my old machine for the girls I set them to laying out the quilt. They LOVE this part of the process. After bed I got the last blocks made and started assembly.

While they were at school yesterday I finished the top (and back!). It was a lovely nearly spring day that saw us stay at the park for 2 hours after school. Needless to say, it was perfect for photographing the finished quilt. A handful of kids took a break from their play to help us snap the picture. I love that their friends have a tiny hand in the finished quilt now and they got to show it off for them. (Although we couldn't necessarily remember who made what block.)

Working with solids is a challenge, for sure, for me. I adore prints. It is also, however, a welcome break. Exercising my visual cortex in a new way was like trying a new workout or different dish at your favourite Italian place. It's good to break out of the norm once in a while.

I am ever thankful for my Calgary Modern Quilt Guild friends for donating scraps to this project. There is no way I could have collected that variety of solid fabrics. There was no rhyme or reason to the colours chosen or the order they were sewn together. Just grab and sew kind of piecing. I did slow down and become intentional with layout. After the girls did their thing we moved a few things around together, but then I just made sure there were no bars of the same colour next to each other or all the whites or blacks bunched together. I needed to make sure it had a bit of balance.

Now, let's see if I can get them to help we wash the dining room floor so we can baste it together this weekend...

16 March, 2015

Translating Inspiration in Quilting - on CreativeLive

Oh, the elusive inspiration. Or the overwhelming inspiration.

As quilters there is inspiration everywhere - other people's quilts, fabric stacks, a pattern jacket, books, and even the buildings, flowers, and colours around us. It is one thing to see and feel all this inspiration, it is quite another to turn it into a quilt.

As a teacher and long term quilter (coming up on 17 years now) the way to turn inspiration into a quilt is a frequently asked question. It can't, however, be answered in a FAQ section on the blog. It can be taught. Rather, the tools and steps it takes to turn inspiration into a quilt can be taught. That is precisely the point of this class on CreativeLive.

If you've taken a webinar with me or a class on intention, this is a more literal interpretation of the process. In this class I break down the steps required to go from idea to quilt. Better yet, there are tonnes of examples - from me and the studio participants. It was great to work with the ladies in the studio with me at play with their ideas. Watching the class, you get to hear and see their thought process. It feels more like a workshop session where we feed off each other as opposed to the teacher at the front of the room.

One of the examples I brought to class was all about a bridge. We have an amazing bridge here in Calgary, called The Peace Bridge. I've loved the lines of it every since it was announced. Not surprisingly, it is often photographed! During the class you can see where my thoughts went and how I played with fabric. You will also see that I never quite landed on what I want. That is totally part of the process though - translating inspiration is an iterative process. So some day soon I will revisit those blocks again and see what it needs to be.

In the meantime, don't hesitate to check out the free preview of the class on CreativeLive. This is such a treat, to see exactly what you are signing up for in this detailed first lesson. 

And speaking of bridges... Random aside from my trip to San Francisco to film the class. Totally cliche, but I walked the Golden Gate Bridge and it was really cool. Even when I got caught in a windy downpour just as I hit the other side.

12 March, 2015

Knits, the Linden Sweatshirt and Thoughts from a Beginner Sewer

If you've read this blog for a while you will remember that I've said many times before that I don't sew clothes. I'm a quilter, not a sewer.

I stand corrected.

Behold my first sweatshirt. When I told my SIL that I was sewing a sweatshirt for fun she commented that she hadn't even seen me wear a sweatshirt aside from a hoodie at the campfire. Quite true. But I picked up this dressy one from J Crew last year and fell in love. Then, at QuiltCon, I finally caved on some gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze I've been admiring for a few months online. Those two loves collided when a friend pointed out to me that they just saw a Grainline Studio's Linden sweatshirt in double gauze. Sold!

Not only was I keen to make this sweatshirt, it was actually serving as my reward. Some selfish sewing after basically 2 months straight of work. Something is clearly wrong with me.

Okay, so this pattern is rated for a beginner. While it is true there are not major technical skills required to make this, it certainly reminded me that I am indeed a beginner when it comes to garment sewing. A few Staple dresses does not make a seamstress. The last time I sewed with knits was a pair of sweatpants in junior high Home Ec.

The pattern is pretty straight forward and well illustrated. It provides a few hints and tips on sewing with knits, like what stitches and needles to use. I felt much more prepared, however, after spending some time on line searching out more tips, tricks, and guides for sewing with knits.

There were a lot of little things that flew under the radar. An experienced sewer would probably just chalk them up to common sense, but it was spots that a beginner would perhaps struggle with. For example:

- Knit is stretchy, this works to your advantage when attaching your cuffs and bands, but against you when cutting.
- When attaching the wrist cuffs, take off the table around the throat of your machine, it pretty much made it perfect for attaching the cuffs. If you don't, you are trying to manage all the material, the stretching, and a good seam allowance without catching the other side of the cuff as you sew.
- If the fabric isn't moving for you under the presser foot, you can raise it a bit.
- There are different settings required for your machine, very different ones if you are used to quilting.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out stitches, speeds, and settings on my machine. In fact, the machine was my biggest frustration. Rather, my ability to work it with this material. With the help of a strong Campari and Soda I found the patience and the rhythm required.

It really got me thinking about beginners and the assumptions I make regarding terminology and basic skills. I write patterns and assume a certain level of knowledge. Now I realize I can't write for every audience - if I broke absolutely everything down the more experienced quilter would be driven bonkers by the detail. There is likely more of a middle ground, however. Especially when marketing to beginners. Definitely something to think about.

I love, love, love this sweatshirt. I like the fit on me. I went for a size 16 based on the pattern measurements and adjusted nothing other than the length of the neck band piece. (I found I liked the wide opening and wanted less of a gathered feel, so I added a few inches to the band). The sweatshirt is loose, almost blousy.  The bottom cuff doesn't get tight around my hips, which I prefer to the alternative. If you wanted it tighter you would just have to make the band a bit shorter. The arms are pretty much perfect for me. This will be a good layering piece as we head into spring.

The material is from Birch Organics, the Elk Grove knit line. I picked it up at a local store. Selection was limited locally to a lot of cute little prints, but I don't do cute on my clothes. So ridiculously soft, the flowers were worth it. I was paranoid about stretching it out before I finished sewing so I was super careful, then someone else commented on an Instagram photo that it wasn't very stretchy! Perhaps it was just paranoia on my part?

Now I am very excited to tackle a double gauze version. For that one I am going to lengthen it a bit so it is extra slouchy. I need to pick up a knit or a ribbing for the wrist cuffs and bottom band. Hopefully I can find something that coordinates nicely. I may switch out the neck band for a bias binding, but I haven't decided on that yet.

Look out world, I'm a sewer now.