Monday, October 31, 2011

The International Quilt Festival in Houston

Is next weekend.  I'll be leaving early Friday morning on a bus trip sponsored by The Quilt Cottage, a shop in Corpus Christi, TX, and will get home Sunday evening.  I'll take my laptop along, so may be able to do a blog post or two from there.  At any rate, this post is about the first time I won a ribbon at the Houston show.  My brother and his wife had bought a home in Rockport, TX in 1992, when the Coast Guard had transferred him to Corpus Christi.  They had dreamed for years about being able to live on Key Allegro here in Rockport, but never thought they could.  But, when they moved here, the TX real estate market was in the dumper, and they were able to buy a fixer-upper on the island.  That fall, and every fall after until we moved down here, I came to visit.  Oddly enough, my visits always seemed to coincide with the Houston show--funny how that worked out.  <insert snicker here>  In 1994, I entered the quilt you see here, which had gotten a 3rd place in the House of Fabrics/SoFro competition, in the Houston show.  I drove up to Houston on Wednesday, and went to the preview showing.  If you go to that, you can hustle around and get good pics of the quilts in the show, without getting so many backs of heads in the pics--it's much less crowded.  So, I was happily wandering around snapping pics of the awesome quilts, when I heard an announcement--they were going to be giving out the ribbons up at the front of the auditorium.  "Yeah, right," I thought, "even fewer folks taking pics, great."  And I continued on.  BUT.  All at once, I heard them call my name!  I raced to the front of the auditorium, and found that this quilt had won first place in the Traditional Pieced, Small category!  I tell you, people, my feet didn't touch the floor for two weeks after that.  I walked around dazed, with a huge grin on my face, through the rest of that show.  What an experience that was.  After they did the ceremony, they put the ribbons on the winners, and the show went on.  I never did finish photographing the quilts--I stood next to mine as requested by the show, and fielded questions for the rest of that evening.  For the rest of the show, I enjoyed folks coming up to ask about the quilt, too.  I'll tell more about it in my next post here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Scrappy quilts

Yesterday, there was a question about scrappy quilts.  Here's one that I have made many times.  The back story?  In the 1990s, I worked at a hospital in Kalamazoo, MI in my capacity as a psych/mental health nurse. One of my co-workers was a very nice young man who had worked hard putting himself through nursing school.  He worked with us for many months without telling us he had AIDS, although we had all figured that out fairly quickly.  This was before the medications came along that let AIDS patients live for many years.  He was almost exactly the same age as our son.  At any rate, this was also in the era of the AIDS quilt (Google that if you're too young to remember it), and I knew that his partner would make one of the panels for him after he was gone, but I just couldn't think it was right that he wouldn't get a quilt until he croaked, so I gave him one of mine.  Then, I started making this quilt.  I cut  4" wide strips, 130 strips of very dark fabric, 120 strips of very light fabric, and 250 strips of medium fabric, using as many conversational prints as I could find.  Now, I have enough conversational prints (ones with little pictures of objects or living things) to do the entire thing.  The strips get sewn into groups of 10 strips, 26 sets sewn dark-medium-dark-medium etc., and 24 sets sewn medium-light-medium-light.  All the seams are pressed toward the medium fabrics.  Then, I cut the sets into 4" wide strips and put them onto a wooden drying rack to keep them separate.  I end up with enough strips to make 10 quilt tops, with no duplicate fabrics in any of the tops.  The quilts measure about 70" by 87.5" and are good for snuggling under.  I found I could order a whole bolt of Warm N Natural batting at a substantial savings, and watched for sales to get backing fabrics.  Over the years, I have made 50 or 60 of these quilts. Quilt guild members helped with the quilting and some tying of the tops.  After moving to TX, I started donating them to our Quilts for Kids project here.  We always got lots of little kid quilts but not much for teens.  These are good for teens.

I like the way the fabric values give a plaid appearance to the tops.  It's a very simple pattern, but visually pleasing to me.  Using so many different prints adds a lot of texture.  Many of the AIDS folks I gave them to remarked that the conversation prints brought back memories.  One with fish might remind them of a fishing trip, one with kittens of a favorite pet, etc.  All in all, this is a very satisfying project.  I need to get another batch finished.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

To answer some questions...

Quilter's Newsletter Magazine did a nice writeup, but printed my poor quilt on its side!

Since Mary wanted to know a little more about this quilt, I will try to remember as much as I can about it and tell all.  This may be difficult--I've slept since then....

The rules of the contest included the size--the quilts were to measure ~40" on a side.  With that as my guiding factor, I started thinking about block sizes.  I knew that I wanted the quilt to appear to be 3-D, too, so that would require some oddly-shaped blocks.  So, I started with four 10" 8-pointed stars on the bottom.  That left 30" to work with on the sides, so I did five 6" and six 5" stars on the sides.  Unfortunately, that left 29" at the top for the little stars, so they had to be 4" plus a smidge.  I'm sure none of you do this, but I tend to use bad language when dealing with these little difficulties, LOL, so the air may have been slightly blue in my studio for a day or two.

At about this time, one of my weekly quilting groups was in the middle of a Friendship Block round--we took turns deciding what we wanted, and then the group would make us a block in the pattern/colors/size that we specified.  One of the ladies had us make a 4", yes I said 4", Mariner's Compass.  We all told her she was lucky to have any friends after that one, LOL.  But, having made one and kept the pattern, I thought it would make a splendid center for a 14" Mariner's Compass, so that's what I did for this little quilt.  I wanted the Compass to show up as though it was floating in space.  This was easily accomplished by adding a half inch around the block.  And I chose the fabric for the background and for the slanted stars, black with small figures, because I thought it could look like stars in space, and the slanted stars would look like holes in the surface showing the stars behind that surface.  When I worked on the slanted stars, I adjusted them so that the large center block would be roughly in the center of the quilt--that meant that none of those eight blocks had the same templates, which meant I needed to number each piece and each block differently to be sure they would fit.  I drew all the blocks on graph paper for accuracy.  They all had to be hand-pieced.  Once the quilt was together, I chose the border fabric.  I thought it complimented the quilt nicely.  Mary also asked about the fabric choices overall.  I happen to like the scrappy look, so for the outer stars, I picked out 8 greens that seemed to look well together, and mixed and matched, trying to keep the blocks as different from each other as possible.  I don't remember for sure, but think I quilted it on my Pfaff 1475CD.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A little history

My quilting activity has been somewhat spotty.  After I made Mom's Star and Crescent quilt, I made a few others--baby quilts, a twin size Grandmother's Flower Garden for my DSIL, etc.--but then, having two little ones sucked up most of my time for a few years.  When they were in grade school, I made a few more for gifts and for the kids.  I was still the Lone Ranger as far as quilters in my life.  When the kids were in grade school, I had gotten through 80 credit hours at Western Michigan University, but took all the fun classes (30 hours of Biology, 20 of Chemistry, 8 of Physics) and was down to mostly General Studies stuff, which I found really boring at the time, and I also found out that the unemployment rate for biology majors was greater than that of the normal population, and it seemed futile to persist, so I dropped out.  Then when the kids were older, I found out they would take old people in nursing school!  I was excited, since that had been what I wanted to do after H.S., but got married instead.  So, at age 37 I started the program, and at 39, I got my RN at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, MI, and then finished up a BSN at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo--the closest school at that time that offered a BSN.  All at once, it was 1985, and I could have a life!  I went to the quilt shop in Battle Creek and took a beginning quilting class, my first ever.  Through that, I learned about and joined the Cal-Co Quilt Guild in Battle Creek, and the Log Cabin Quilters in Kalamazoo, both groups just chock full of fabulous quilters.  I learned so much from those marvelous women.  What a grand discovery that was.

 I found I enjoyed entering quilt shows.  It was then that I entered Paducah's show the first time, after the Log Cabin Quilters challenged each other to enter.  We had 11 quilts juried in that year from that group, amazing.  So, when a national store had a contest, I thought it would be fun to enter.  They are no longer around, but the stores were called House of Fabrics in some states, and SoFro in others.  The contest theme that year was Stars, and I made the quilt pictured above.  Much to my surprise, it won the grand prize.  I was sure for days that they must have made a mistake, LOL.  It also went to Paducah, but didn't win anything there.  I still was immensely pleased just to get it juried in.  And to this day, if I get a quilt juried in, my feet don't touch the ground for days.  I strongly encourage people to enter their quilts, since if it doesn't get juried in, the worst thing that can happen is you get the letter saying it's a nice quilt, but you can keep it home.  I've gotten lots of those, LOL.  Nobody will come and drag you out into the street and shoot you if it doesn't make the cut.  Please, enter your quilts.  They need hundreds of quilts to make those wonderful shows happen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Avatar

Mary suggested that I tell you about the quilt that I use for my avatar.  I worked on it for a few years before it all came together.  The whole thing was done using paper foundation piecing on the Singer VS3 hand crank sewing machine pictured above, which is a 3/4 size machine, and was made in the late 1880s.  I was able to print out the paper foundations for the regular blocks using EQ5 or 6, can't remember now--I've slept since then, LOL.  The wonky ones were drawn out on graph paper by hand.  I love taking a traditional block and tweaking it to make the quilt surface appear to be 3-D.  After piecing the blocks, I sewed the top together with the Davis Vertical Feed treadle pictured above the hand crank machine.  The beauty of that machine is that it has no feed dogs.  After the needle enters the fabric and the stitch is formed, both the needle and the foot move all the fabric layers back.  When the needle leaves the fabric, it and the foot move forward again to form the next stitch.  No puckers on the back!  It's FABULOUS!  It also was used to quilt the top, and to apply the binding with very narrow piping.  I used Sharon Schamber's method, glueing the binding on before sewing, sewing it to the back of the quilt first and then stitching-in-the-ditch right next to the piping on the front, a la Ricky Tims.  NO HAND SEWING!  Taking classes at Paducah and Houston has paid off handsomely.  I haven't had to reinvent the wheel.  After it was done, I decided it needed a bit more, so added the butterflies.  The quilt's title is "Shoo, 'Fly".  It won an honorable mention at the Houston show in 2008, and I was as proud as could be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mom's third quilt

So, after Pop passed away, Mom decided to get rid of their double bed and bought a day bed with a trundle bed underneath, in case she had an overnight guest. They were living in Sunset Village, a senior apartment place in a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI. A year later, Mom decided she would move down to Texas, since both her children were living here in Rockport. She looked at some senior housing in Corpus Christi, and chose Trinity Towers. There was a bit of a wait for her apartment, so she stayed with us for 6 weeks. She enjoyed living there. But the day came when she realized (after several trips to the E.R. for falls mainly due to forgetting her meds) that it was time to move in with us for a while. So, we figured she needed a nice new quilt to celebrate the move. She went to my fabric stash and chose around 20 purples and 20 pinks, and chose the background fabric. Someone had shown me a quilt in this pattern, and I drew the block and put down the measurements, so I was able to piece it easily. Our Siamese, Arwen Undomiel, tested and approved the quilt. Mom still loves it. This spring, she decided that it was time to move to a nursing home. She chose one that's only 4 miles from us. I'm glad she did. Her dementia has gotten much more advanced. She gets paranoid about people, and would be very difficult to have at home now, but seems to do pretty well with the nursing home staff most of the time. She still has one of my quilts on her bed there, along with the wall hanging you can see above her day bed in the picture above the day bed picture. The story on that was that even though I hate doing applique, I did love Patricia Campbell's Jacobean designs. One of her books had these quilt designs. They were supposed to be larger blocks, but the illustrations in the book were 7", so I made these in that size. I did machine applique. The small pieces were excruciating to do, but thank goodness I stayed with only 9 blocks. The real fun with that one was choosing the fabrics for the blocks. I love working with color.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mom's second quilt

Mom and Pop used that Star and Crescent quilt for more than 30 years, until it was getting threadbare. So, I swapped it out for the first quilt I entered in the show in Paducah. The newspaper article was caused by a press release from the quilt show in Paducah--the local paper called to interview me. They put the wrong caption under the picture, but I forgave them because they were so flattering. It didn't win anything there (it did in a few smaller shows), but it was such an honor to get juried in that I didn't care. This quilt was made in 1986, and there's a bit of a story behind it, too. I had bunions on both feet. For many years, they didn't bother me, but when I started working as an RN, they soon started giving me grief. I asked around among RNs working on orthopedic units to see who they would choose if they were having bunion surgery, and scheduled it. I had once had a conversation with one of the surgeons, who recommended getting them both done at once, since otherwise, I might never go back for the second one. So, as the surgery got closer, I sewed this quilt top, on a machine, using a strip piecing technique. Then I added the borders and corner blocks. The day before the surgery, I got the quilt all basted and ready to quilt. The surgery was done outpatient, with a nerve block, and when I got home, I was going to start quilting, but my spouse said no way, and put the quilt out of my reach. The next day, though, he put everything on the coffee table next to the sofa--threads, scissors, needles, thimble. Picture me on my back on the sofa, with my feet up on a pile of 5 pillows, with the quilt in an 18" hoop, quilting away for hours every day for 6 weeks. Bill moved the hoop for me as needed. Being the OCD soul that I am, I used 6 colors of quilting thread plus black on the quilt. The black areas around the star have my favorite filler design--a 1.5" grid with 0.5" squares in each of the grid squares. The borders have a very Amish feather design flowing along, and again, I changed thread colors as the feathers moved across the color strips in the border. I called it "Midnight Rainbow with Amish Ancestors". Mom and Pop used that one from the 90's until Pop passed away in 2005. After that, it came back to me. Mom decided to get a day bed instead of using their full bed, and I made her a quilt and shams for that, which you will see tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

And then,

When we got back to Michigan, I found an older lady to hand quilt the top for me. We then used that quilt on our bed for almost 40 years. It got pretty raggedy toward the end. I finally tossed it when we moved into Kalamazoo from the farm in 2000. Now, I wish I had kept it, or at least taken a decent pic of it before getting rid of it. Heavy sigh.

Shortly after that, I offered to make a quilt for my Mom. She chose a black print, and a pink solid for the background. I picked a quilt pattern called Star and Crescent. Now, you can tell that I had no friends who were quilters, because if I had, they would have told me I was flat out crazy to choose a design with such steep curves for my second quilt top. But, in blissful ignorance, I went ahead and repeated the process I'd followed with the first quilt top--making templates, marking all the pieces, cutting them out, etc., and proceeded to piece the quilt. I then layered it, using a flannel sheet instead of batting, and quilted it all by hand, which made it my very first completed quilt entirely done by me. The picture above isn't very good, but you can see the steep curves. I'm the fluffy lady on the left. The pic was taken at our quilt guild meeting. I was the Quilter of the Month, and brought in all my quilts to share with the guild members. It was fun! Perhaps your quilt guild would like to do this--feature one of you each month, so that the others can see your quilts and learn more about you and your work.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Another day, another thought...

So, after I got through reading the Aunt Martha quilt book, I followed the directions. I bought decent scissors, some paper to trace the templates, glue to glue the paper templates onto cardboard, a pencil and sharpener, and some solid green, solid white, and green print fabric. The pattern I chose had quite a few half square triangles and an 8 pointed star in each block. I made the templates, then used the solids for the 2" half square triangles, and the green print for the diamonds. I drew carefully around the templates onto the fabric, leaving room for a 1/4" seam allowance around each one. There were a LOT of them, since the quilt top I hand pieced was for a full extra long bed. As I remember, it took a long time to hand piece that top, but it was very relaxing.

After the top was done, my spouse looked at it, and said, "Wouldn't it have been a lot faster to just sew the big pieces together?" It was at that point I realized he really didn't get it.....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A new adventure

My friend Mary suggested that this would be a good place to talk about my favorite activity, designing and making quilts. Well, okay, it's just about my only activity outside of reading...

I've been doing it for quite a while. Way back in the early 1960s, my husband's employer sent him from Michigan to Oklahoma City to learn about some new electronic gear. We were supposed to be there for about 3 months. We loaded up our baby boy and as much stuff as we could cram into our Volkswagen Beetle, and drove south. Once we got there, my spouse was in school all day. I didn't know anybody there, of course, and a baby isn't much of a conversationalist. Boredom struck. I decided a hobby would be nice. I went to a dime store (I'm guessing that very few people reading this will know what that is) and looked at the needlework books. My eye landed on some quilting pattern books. How hard could that be? I bought a couple and took them to the apartment to study.

More tomorrow....