Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blocking a Quilt

Yesterday I finally found the time to block the "Be Still" quilt. It requires steady concentration, and time to dry - that's my excuse for putting it off for the past few weeks. That, and I've been out of town. Excuses, excuses. No more excuses.

Here we go:
I start with foam sheathing as my work surface. This is the same stuff that I used to make my design wall. Since my design wall is 8' x 7', and behind some tables, I invested in two more panels to block my quilts. It is definitely worth it. I store the sheathing in the garage.

I cover the sheathing with a clean sheet, and then cover that with this stuff that I have no clue what it is called...but it has a 1" grid on it, it's like interfacing and it's perfect for lining up the edges of the quilt.

I lay the quilt on the grid, pinning every inch. When the quilt is not lining up correctly, the ruler helps me get the edge straight.
You can see how wobbly and uneven this edge is. I was surprised at how ruffly it was, but it DOES affect the way the quilt hangs, and curing these ruffly wobbles is why we block our quilts.
I continue to pin, pulling the quilt to shape and distributing the excess evenly.
Once it is in place, I sprayed it with water, saturating the parts that need to shrink to fit.

I'll stop here and tell you that usually I wash the quilt. But it's January. And I have to ship it soon. And I don't want it to shrink in height or width, which it might when I wash it, since I've used cotton everything. All I want is for the borders to behave. I wet the center of the quilt, and I really saturated the borders.

Can you see the excess bulk behind the letters? The quilt is pinned into place, and now I'm going to soak the thing and pat it until it lies the way I want it.

Doesn't that look better?
And yes, I did get the center of the quilt wet as well, but not as wet as the borders. The center was already nice and flat and very well-behaved.
Finally, since it's January, I set up a fan to dry it more quickly.

It dried much faster than I anticipated, and so I soaked the borders a second time for good measure. This morning I took the quilt outside and hung it. Here's how it looks now. Notice the improvement in the way it hangs.
See how the bottom edge is nice and flat? You can compare to my earlier post, where it's all too ruffly. The first picture was "good enough" to get it accepted into the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, but the quilt in person would not have shown to its full potential without the blocking.

One more thing: use nickel-plated pins for pinning, because they don't rust

And there you go. That's all I know about blocking quilts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I spy!!

Do you see it?!! No, I'm not talking about the tree debris or the snail tracings on the leaves, I'm talking about the first iris bud of 2008. hip, hip, hooray!! Can spring be far behind?

We had a STORM yesterday, hoo-whee!! The newspaper was filled with pictures of trees on cars, trees on houses and trees on the freeway. Stop signs and fences and street signs are snapped or bent at the base. Must have been some wind!!! And to think that I missed it. I was on the road (blowing around in the rain), and got home after the wind had come and gone. Visalia looked like a waste-land movie set. Pretty good for a place that doesn't really get weather, eh? :)

Anyway, this morning I went out back to pull more tree limbs out of the pool and to bail more water so we don't overflow. That's when I turned and spotted the iris. She didn't snap off in the wind, and she's getting ready to bloom. I'm guessing dark purple with a white beard. I'll have my answer in the next day or two. Stay tuned... ;)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ricky Tims Super Seminar

Oh. My. Gosh. Talk about getting an infusion of inspiration!!! I had the good fortune to be one of the 500 quilters to attend the Ricky Tims Super Seminar in Livermore, CA this past weekend. ohmygosh! I just want to sit down at my sewing machine and begin CREATING. My mind is swimming. Yes, I KNOW I have commitments. I KNOW I have quilts waiting their turns for finishing, but really. There is so much else that I want to do now as well. Where does a quilter even begin?
How do you like this picture? I like it better than the glam shot. This one makes Ricky look real, like an approachable human being, which he totally is. The first shot makes him look like a celebrity, and I get a bit intimidated. I know. We're all quilters. But still. He's THE Ricky Tims, you know? :)

I neglected to write down the name of this quilt, but this is one of his pieces. It gives you an idea of his eye for color and design. Isn't it amazing? And what is even more amazing is his saying that he drew the circle patterns by pounding a nail through a yardstick and his wooden floor !!!

I'm totally exhausted from three days of fun. All I can say is this: If you are a quilter, and EVER have the chance to attend one of his seminars, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. I went with quite a group of local quilters, and I think each and every one of us got more out of it than we'd expected. It was truly a delight to be part of it.

OH! You don't even have to be a quilter. He's leading a Creativity Cruise for all kinds of artists some time next year. Google him, find his website and check it out. I promise you. You will be inspired. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On the road again

Good morning, good morning. No pictures today, just wrapping up loose ends and packing. By 2:30 this afternoon, I should be in Oakland, checking in for the 3-day Ricky Tims seminar. Did I tell you that he personally invited Elaine, Leslie and me to attend? We shared a picnic bench in Paducah last April and he told us we HAD to come. I do believe we'll all be there. It's not often that one is invited by such a big name to take their class. :)

Anyway, just wanted to let you know why the posting is on hiatus - I'm out of town through the weekend. Hopefully I'll be back on Monday with lots to share. until then....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sewing on labels

I took the "be still" quilt to Road to CA, to get it appraised. This particular appraiser gave me information that other appraisers had not shared before. I'd rushed to finish the quilt, and hadn't yet labeled or blocked it. She said, "Sorry. But I have to appraise it exactly as I see it." hmmm. Maybe that explains a couple of unexpectedly low appraisals...I was in such a rush to get the quilts appraised, I hadn't taken the time to finish getting them in show condition. I'll know better next time.

After her lack of label comment, I decided that I really need to keep my quilt labels current, so I spent yesterday making labels. As you can tell by the picture above, I label each venue my quilts have visited. That way, the quilt can tell its own story of its travels, and I don't have to try to remember them. :)

Here is the label that I made for the "be still" quilt. I've also got a second label, with my name, address and phone number. For any quilt that gets sent to a show, that name & address label is an absolute MUST, especially if you are shipping the quilt. If it falls out of its box, you want to have a way for them to know who to send it to, right? Right!

When I was taking pictures of the labels, another of my works in progress caught my eye. This one has been most frustrating. I've done the lettering in the border with Tsukineko inks, but decided that the darkest blotches in the fabric interfere with the ability to read the words. I got the grand idea to lighten the background with paint. bad idea. It looks glaringly bad to me, and I'm now trying to come up with a solution. The most obvious is to find more fabric and redo it. But I've already sunk over 20 hours into this border, and I'm not eager to start over and do another 20. But I'm planning to hand quilt this one, and it does seem that remaking the borders is probably my best bet.
I did find fabric that would be PERFECT for this border. Unfortunately it was a cherrywood gradation fabric that is ONLY available in fat quarters. I need at least 1 1/2 yards. I suppose I will keep on looking. The solution is out there, it's just waiting for me to stumble upon it.

For now, I've got labels to sew and other quilts to finish, so it's not like there's nothing to do...

I'd best get to it!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Road Trip

whew! Yesterday we did the down and back trip to Ontario, CA, which is 3.5 hours one way. We hopped in the car by 6:45am, and were home at 9:45pm. what a day, what a day!! It was all good, filled with quilts and friends and fun and laughter with a bit of vendor-shopping thrown in for good measure. :)

First off I'd like to show you my friend Sharon, and her award-winning Outstanding Innovative Quilt. Rumor has it that it was in contention for Best of Show. In my book, that's exactly what it was - the best of the best, hanging in the front, exactly where it should have been. :)
"America the Beautiful"
by Sharon L. Schlotzhauer

Here are the two of us, as we were working our way through the show. So much to see, so much to talk about, so little time!!!

Talk about so much to see. Take a gander at this one.

My "Light Shines in the Darkness" was hung in the corner by the big blue nude woman, wrapped in a rope. There was another nude, on the side, looking out at my quilt. I heard someone say, "This is truly art!" yep. Another reason I insist that I am NOT an art quilter. If this big blue woman is art, well, I doubt that I will ever be making anything even remotely similar to her. ever.

I was much more relaxed to see "Sentries in the Garden" hanging with other flower quilts. It looked pretty small and insignificant, amidst the big gorgeous blooms, but it caught this man's eye. I told him that I had to take a picture of him taking a picture of my quilt. It made me happy. He might have thought I was a bit nutty, but he did introduce me to his wife/female companion. They took the picture so they could examine the hand quilting when they got home. :)

All in all, it was a day of fun. It was like being a resident in a small town, as I saw friends and familiar faces all around. Charlotte, Elaine, Kathy, Pat, Jan, Lynne L., Betty, Pattie, Sara, Barbara, Deolinda, Kelly, Lynne D....I probably haven't even listed half of them!!

And the quilts! As if I needed incentive to finish my current show quilts in progress! I've been actively working on them, and now I am all the more eager to put my nose to the grindstone and get them finished!

Friday, January 18, 2008

More on irises

I've gone back to my files for another iris picture. I'm dreaming of springtime, when these pretties are actually blooming again. It's going to be a while. They're not even pretending to think about it yet. But they haunt my dreams and invade my quilts. No doubt about it.

You've seen "Queen of the Garden" and the follow-up "Sentries of the Garden." Sentries fixed the border and background issues, but I still hadn't dealt with the central design criticisms. The judges didn't like the way the design was "lost," even though I loved the way the iris did the floaty thing. I just had to do it one more time. This time, I lost the background, and focused on the iris itself. No garden, just the iris. I finished this earlier this month. What do you think?

"Psalm 46:10 Be Still"
40.5" x 40.5"

It is hand-appliqued and hand-quilted. The lettering in the border is a combination of applique and embroidery.

The colors of these pictures aren't as vivid as they are in person, but they give you the idea.

I've been asked how I did the lettering in the border. I found a font I liked on the computer and printed it out. Then I traced it on the dark purple with a light box, then cut-away the waste as I appliquéd letter by letter.

When I called up this picture, I noticed that "More Glorious Than Solomon" is folded on the table behind this border. "More Glorious" was in the process of being quilted. "More Glorious" was finished in August of 2005. For those of you who wonder, "How long does it take to make a quilt?" this is a clue. I believe that I'd already appliqued the interior of the "Be Still" quilt by this time, but it took years to reach the point where I was actually in the process of quilting it. One of those Ecclesiastes things about a time for everything and everything in its time...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

No ringy-dingies

You know the feeling. The phone is there, you want it to ring, but it doesn't. sigh. Yesterday was one of those "no ringy-dingy" days. When the phone rang, it wasn't the caller I was hoping for.

There. It's out there. I admit it. I was hoping to hear from Road to CA that perhaps one of my quilts won a monetary prize. But they didn't. oh well. There's always next year. ;)

I showed you one of the quilts in an earlier post (Sentries in the Garden), but I hadn't shown you the other quilt.
The Light Shines in the Darkness
40.5" x 40.5"

I shouldn't have been waiting for the phone, because the point of entering this quilt in Road to CA was not to win a prize. The point of entering this quilt was so that people would see it and perhaps be affected by it.

The Light Shines in the Darkness - close-up

I suspect that this particular quilt could be deemed controversial. It was rejected by Road last year, but I decided to try it again. This year it got in. Knowing that God's word never goes out empty (Isaiah 55:11) I am certain that there is at least one person who will be at the show this year, who was not there last year, who will be touched by the message of this quilt. And for that, I am thankful. It was accepted, it is hanging, and if the quilt touches someone, God gets the glory. :)

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the quilt is hand-appliquéd and hand-quilted. The border lettering is done with acrylic paint and freezer paper stencils. The interior lettering is done free-hand, with a fabric paint pen.

I think that's about it for now... :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

more on flowers

Yesterday afternoon was bright and sunny, so I thought I'd snap a photo of the narcissus currently blooming in our yard. These are the first bright colors to pop up in winter. Pansies are the other source of color that see us through December and January.

I showed you "Queen of the Garden," a quilt immortalizing my spring favorite, the iris. That particular quilt, although loved by me, was not loved by quilt judges. It received numerous comments, some of which included "border does not relate to quilt," (I thought it did, they both remind me of stained glass), and "main design element gets lost in the background," (that was kind of the point: real iris blooms seem to float above the garden).

Those comments haunted me. I loved the quilt, yet obviously it was either lacking something or could have been improved. The quilt looks just like my garden, but others don't appreciate it the way I do. So I tried it again. This time, I replaced the iris with daffodils and tulips. I made the same background, only this time, I extended the Hunter Star design into the border.

The judges were right. Changing the border improved the quilt. This quilt is smaller, and is hand-quilted. If you are visiting Road to California this week, you might catch a glimpse of it.

"Sentries in the Garden"

It took almost 6 years for me to absorb the judges' comments, rethink the design, make the top and quilt it, but it has been worth the wait. This quilt debuted at the 2007 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in September, and this time the judges' comments made me smile. :) I am curious to read what the Road to CA judges have to say about it...I'll find out on Sunday.


Before we moved to the Central Valley, I had no clue what "fog" meant. I thought it was the thing that crept in on little cat feet, the quiet stillness immortalized by Carl Sandburg. I was wrong. It's a deadly silence, that is best faced from inside one's home.

Today is a foggy day school schedule. Most people are familiar with "snow days," we have foggy days. Sometimes it is so bad that school is cancelled. Since my kids are now post-high school, I no longer monitor the TV for updates. But I know that today is a fog-delayed school day (school starts 3 hours later, hoping that the fog lifts) for sure. Since the dense fog advisory is in effect until 11am, and the fog shows no signs of lifting (I was out driving in it at 8am, I just got home), I'm guessing that kids are clustered around their TVs, praying for cancellation. :) It's happened in our household many, many times.

This picture gives you a taste of real fog. This is actually not too bad, since I can still see the house across the street. When I drove, I could see 6 lines in the road. When it's really bad, you struggle to see one or two lines on the road, and you can barely see the house next door. The house across the street cannot be detected.

Anyway, today is a foggy day. I guess that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

obsessed by irises

So. What do you think about irises? I love, love, love them. It never occurred to me to even think about irises, until we were given some rhizomes when we first moved to this area in 1985. They are like magic, and I wait and watch for them each year as a sign that spring is here.

This photo is from my collection, so it's from last year or the year before. It's a harbinger of things to come. ;)

Whenever an animal (or kid) knocks over a bloom, I cut it and bring it into the house and watch it in wonder. Have you ever done that? That tiny little bud, no bigger than my thumb, transforms into a magnificent bloom the size of my fist within 24 hours. WHERE do the petals come from? I am in awe over God's handiwork, as I study those blooms. HOW does He do it?!!! It's a miracle. :) And it happens on my kitchen counter every year.

All this to say that I find irises to be inspirational.

This is the first quilt that I actually finished, using an iris as its focal point.

"Queen of the Garden"
47" x 58.5"

This quilt can be seen in Jan Krentz's book Hunter Star Quilts & Beyond. (See for more info.)

I thought I was done with the idea - I'm not usually much for series - but I wasn't. There was more to come. But I've got stuff to do, so I'll continue with the "more" tomorrow.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

eyes vs. stomach

On Friday, I went shopping, and bought three lovely sweaters. Friday evening, I tried them on. ugh. Two of them had to go back.

On Saturday, the salesclerk asked, "So, was there anything wrong with the sweaters?" I told her no, they were gorgeous. "When I was young, my mom used to tell me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Now that I'm older, it turns out that my stomach is bigger than my eyes." She looked at me and burst out laughing. She laughed so hard, she rang me up wrong three times. sigh.

They really were gorgeous sweaters. Unfortunately they looked better on the rack than they did on me. So much for shopping. :)

Gotta run...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On your mark, get set, BLOG!

Okay folks, bear with me. I've never done this before and I'm not sure it's a good idea. Kind of like letting a toddler loose in a toy store. Or candy store. Or quilter in a quilt store with unlimited funding...a bit scary when you stop to think about it.

But after much prompting and prodding, I'm venturing out onto the interweb. Hopefully I will not get lost or lose my way. I've been assured (unknowingly by various bloggers) that this is fun and painless. We'll just have to see about that.

In the meantime, here I am, and here's my header, in all its glory. In fact, the name of the quilt in the header is More Glorious Than Solomon. Would you like to see the full quilt?

I'm sorry that the best picture of the quilt has me in the foreground. Way to spoil a pretty picture, good going! But you get the idea. This photo was taken at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara in 2005. An oldie but a goodie.

And as to the quilt's title "More Glorious Than Solomon," the label on the back reads "MORE GLORIOUS THAN SOLOMON" observe the lilies, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these Matthew 6:28-29 Begun in a Ruth McDowell class 3/05. Original Design based on my photo. Suzanne Kistler, August 2005."

I have to say that this is the most challenging quilt I've ever finished, and it ranks up there as one of my favorites. I hope you like it as much as I do. :)