24 December, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas from all of the Arkisons. (Luchadores included)

I'm taking a break until the New Year. Happy Holidays.

21 December, 2010

Just Because

There are presents to wrap, a tiny bit more shopping to do, some making to happen, and some renewal of the family with Hubby now home. Instead, I'm working on a "Just Because" quilt.

I actually get quite annoyed when I'm asked what a quilt is for. I understand that people are being curious and I shouldn't get annoyed. The question, however, implies that all quilts have to serve a purpose or have a recipient in mind. It's a narrow view for those of us who feel a compulsion to create. I always answer, "It's just a quilt."

But it isn't just a quilt. There is always a reason to make. Sometimes it is simply to act in the process of making. Sometimes it is because you have an idea stuck in your head on repeat like 'All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth' (my apologies now). Sometimes there is a more guttural reason but you don't want to share it just yet.

So, even with all this stuff do to in anticipation of Christmas celebrations I'm plugging away on this particular Just Because quilt. I need to work on it and I need to have it done. Just Because.

(Go here to see the entire top and the inspiration.)

17 December, 2010

Eye Candy

These books are feast for the eyes! Full of bright and very energetic quilts, the two Material Obsession books are some great eye candy for the modern quilter.

Actually, I think these books would be fantastic transitions to modern quilting. There are a lot of elements and inspirations from typically traditional quilts. The adaptations, designs, and fabric choices make them decidedly modern. They are bright, they utilize an array of popular, designer fabric, and many of them are updates on traditional inspirations.

Both of the books are essentially books of patterns, with a brief discussion on basic techniques. No extra text in there, but loads of pictures. To me, they are books I would pick up for some new ideas. I'm not one to go out and make THAT quilt specifically, but there is definitely a lot to inspire from construction techniques, colour choices, or block design.

If you did want to make THAT quilt from either of the books, know that these aren't beginner quilts. Some of the patterns are easier, but a neophyte would probably have a hard time getting through most of them. Confident beginner willing to try? Go for it.

The book runs the gamut of techniques as well. I really liked the applique quilts and was drawn to all the angles in some others. They advocate a number of speciality rulers. If I were to make one of these quilts I would hesitate before buying some of the rulers and probably want to paper piece instead. That's probably just me, though, as I don't like a lot of one-use items around.

The photos are stunning and literally peppered on every page. Tonnes of detailed shots and a plethora of quilts draped here and there kind of shots. I did not like that you didn't get a full on quilt shot until the end of the pattern in Material Obsession. Material Obsession 2 does have small images on the first page of the pattern, but then they would face that page with a draped quilt shot. I'm not a fan of the draped quilt shot, personally.

The books' authors, Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke, were owners of the drool worthy store Material Obsessions in Australia. Kathy still runs the store, but Sarah is on her own now as a designer and the creative director at Sewn.

You know me, I'm not a pattern follower. I will, however, be returning to these books every now and then for a little inspiration. So many details to take in.

14 December, 2010

Always Learning

It was our Christmas party at guild the other day. We had instructions to make a stocking, according to this tutorial, then fill it with treats. Um, okay.

Except when you have to eyeball the pattern because your computer/printer connection is spazzing. Then you eyeball that pattern quite oddly and make a little elf toe that refuses to get turned right side out. At least the string piecing went well. And you just know that your mostly traditional guild will balk at the bright colours.

Well, maybe they didn't balk at it. I would say, however, that mine was certainly the brightest on the table! The rest were all gorgeous though. So much thought put into the details and some very fine work.

These stockings are a perfect example of the guild for me. There are a handful of us under 40 there. The rest of the ladies are full of more life and I love sitting and listening to their stories and advice. I've got a lot to learn and to live. It's the same when it comes to quilting. There are some incredible skills in the room - from painting to embroidery to machine quilting to handwork to design. So much to learn.

Don't knock the elf toe and don't knock the traditional guild.

10 December, 2010

Colouring Books

This week is all about colour. Perfectly appropriate with a fresh dusting of snow outside. Although, don't fool yourself, there is a lot of colour in a winter day.

Elle asked for my favourite colour books. Colour books are not all the same. Considering colour theory transcends the medium of the maker and is fairly standard, this is somewhat surprising.

When it comes to quilt books and colour, the variations seem to come in the communication of the theory. I think this is great because people learn differently and one book may sing to you and fall flat for another reader. Okay, that may be personality, but when it comes to colour, it is probably more about how the message hits you. It isn't any fault of the writer either. It is all about what you, the reader and quilter, respond to in a book.

At the top of the list for me is Fun Quilts Quiltmaker's Color Workshop. They do provide a few short pages on colour theory, then launch into concrete examples of 15 different palettes. They aren't grouped according to analogous, complementary, split complementary, etc., like so many other books. Rather they talk about a concept, mood, or inspiration. Each palette includes a real quilt, illustrations of the colours used - including demonstrations of the proportions used - and where they fit on the colour wheel. Then they include illustrations of what happens when you change proportions or vary the colour choices. Finally, they suggest exercises or workshop ideas for the individual or group. And this is for each of the 15 palettes.

I think the way the book is written can appeal to many different types of quilters and learning styles. It is incredibly detailed in discussion and in visual illustrations. It isn't a book you are going to pull out to see if this green goes with that purple on the colour wheel. It is, however, a great book for pushing you to examine your colour use and to encourage you to play with fabric and colour before you even bring out a needle and thread.

Another great book to push you through some challenges is Color and Composition for the Creative Quilter by Katie Pasquini Masopust and Brett Barker. This one isn't just about colour, they also cover layout, balance, and composition. Moving the reader through a whole bunch of exercises, they really encourage the personal adaptation of the concepts. It does follow the typical colour theory discussions, but with discussions on composition it is set apart from other books.

This book is also full, really full, of examples. Student work, quilts, photos, and drawings. even if you didn't do a single exercise, it too is also a good reference book. It is also full of tips and detailed explanations/inspirations for expanding your concepts of colour and composition.

Another book that takes the lesson approach is Color for the Terrified Quilter by Ionne McCauley and Sharon Pederson. This book is full of photos, illustrations, and basic lessons to get you playing with colour. There are examples and 11 quilt projects also included. Keep in mind that the projects are all pieced and would likely be considered traditional quilts by many. But they are quite striking in their simplicity and easily adapted to your own fabric sensibility and design preferences.

There is a big difference between this book and the Pasquini Masopust/Barker book. McCauley and Pederson's book is probably going to feel more familiar to the average quilter. That is, the ones who are happy making lots of quilts, complex and simple, modern and traditional. The Pasquini Masopust/Barker book is probably going to appeal to the art school grad or art quilter. They are both doing very similar things, but the layout, visuals, and communication provide a different tone to the books. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other in the material content of the book. Grab them both from the library and see what I mean.

Finally, there is always Joen Wolfrom. I used to steal her Color Play book from a quilting friend until I felt pretty confident in my understanding of colour. Visual Coloring is great for people who don't want to worry about colour theory though. Take a picture, an image, some graphics and pull the colours from that. Nature or the designers are both pretty good at making sure what is there works together.

Wolfrom features heaps of examples and a few patterns to illustrate her point. In all honesty, though, the discussion on what she means by visual coloring is short. What else could she say, though?

So, which is the right book for you? That's hard to say. I do think many beginners, and even us experienced folks would benefit from a good resource book. I own the first two books and do pull them out regularly. I fully admit that there is still a lot to learn.

A modern quilter who is ready to take steps into design and moving beyond single fabric line quilts would probably like Quiltmaker's Color Workshop the best. The quilts themselves are probably more appealing to a modern quilter.

Don't, however, discount a book just because the quilts in it aren't your style. Take cues from the presentations, lessons, and whether you actually learn something from the book. Colour books aren't necessarily meant for inspiration. Think of them as textbooks or reference materials.

Have I missed a favourite of yours? Have I thoroughly confused you with my insistence on using the letter U in colour?

07 December, 2010

Valuable Finish

Values Quilt
66'' Square

Finally, a finish. Well, almost. I haven't come up with a name for this one yet.

This one is a long time coming. It feels like it, at least. I started this one back in April. I'm usually much faster than this. Oh well. I fully claim life as getting in the way. It happens. And I'm okay with that. Lately, however, I've been craving finishes. I've got a few more going on, I'll keep you posted on those.
Once I got it basted it only took me a week to finish it. Really it took only one full day to quilt it. The one day Hubby gave me and I took it. Another evening and I had the binding on it. We went away for the weekend two weeks ago and I stitched away happily in the evenings at my MIL's.

The quilting is pretty darn simple. I can see why so many stick with simple straight lines. It's mindless, sure, but it gets things done quickly. For the one square section I went with these freehand and rather primitive hearts. The Monster is very big into drawing hearts these days, so that's where these came from.

The binding is this blue green. I found the quilt to be quite pink/red. Lots of warm tones. So I bound it in blue. The quilting is actually in two different blues as well. I think it balances things out a little bit better. What do you think?

Someone else has already taken to it quite quickly.

03 December, 2010


Let's talk books.

I've reviewed a few books here and plan to review a lot more in the coming months. Before I go any further I wanted to bring up a conversation here.

There was a comment on last week's post by Weeks Ringle, one of the authors of The Modern Quilt Workshop, among others. Her comment led to a series of emails between she and I about the writing in quilt books.

I'm a fan of good writing. Just like I'm a fan of a cup of strong tea, colour, and the Edmonton Oilers. I also enjoy entertaining writing, or a piece that challenges or motivates me. While I've only read a couple dozen or so quilt books in my time I can say that it isn't always the writing that attracts me to the book.

Too often, a quilt book is a section outlining the concepts of the book - what makes this book different from all the rest of the books out there - followed by a basics quilting section. After that it is a bunch of patterns. The vast majority of books are glorified packages of patterns.

To be clear, I don't actually see anything wrong with that. I don't own many of this type of book, but they serve a purpose and can be quite motivating. What makes a book buyable and frequently browsed - to me - will be the good writing.

If I flip through a book and the patterns are interesting or exciting to me the first thing I do is read the Introduction. Bad or boring writing usually causes me to set the book down. I'll probably take a mental note of what I liked from the patterns and file it away for later inspiration. If the writing is engaging or grabs me with a challenging concept I am far more likely to take the book.

Of course, I'm also a sucker for pretty and clean layouts.

This leads me to what Weeks Ringle and I were chatting about - what is the appropriate level of personality in a book? The visuals, aside from the quilts themselves, are a strong part of the personality of the author. Compare Simplify with Camille Roskelly with The Practical Guide to Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman, for example. Same publisher, same book format. But visually they are very different.

The writing is also part of the personality. And making the writing personal is about more than adding a whole pile of exclamation points or silly jokes. Being able to write in a voice that sounds like you when you are talking doesn't come to everyone. More importantly, being able to do so well and still be engaging is a big challenge. Even if you can do it well, it is hard to be great at it all the time.

In a book that is outlining specific concepts or technical design information, is there a place for personality? That was the question Weeks and I were debating. Or it is better to be succinct and specific?

This, of course also leads to the inherent links between blogging and books. Are they separate? Should they be? If you blog and write a book, how much of one should make it to the other - marketing aside?

I'm going to turn it back to you now. You've read the questions above. You've probably read a million books on your own. What are your thoughts? Oh, one more question. What is your experience as a quilter and what type of books do you like to read?