Saturday, September 12, 2015

What I did on my summer vacation .....

Well, I guess it can hardly be called "vacation" since it runs all year long every year, but you get the drift.  Shortly after I finished Wendy's red bird quilt I got a call from another lady in my guild, Joanne, asking if I had time to quilt a lap quilt for her.  I got it from her around mid-July.  It was about 60" square and such lovely colours!  I love blue and yellow together, and red and yellow together, so this was a knockout in blue, red and yellow.  It was a really quick job, lots of straight lines and quilting in the ditch, plus she had taken out all of the excess fabric behind her appliqué so it wasn't overly thick to quilt through the layers. 
I quilted straight lines radiating out from the centre and meeting up along the edge of each section of the big yellow star.  All of the vines, leaves and flowers were quilted in the ditch.  

When she dropped the quilt off for me we had talked about what to do in the blue setting squares and triangles.  She was thinking maybe something round like a feathered wreath or something to offset the sharp pointyness of the star.  When I got to that part, though, I didn't think a wreath would look very good, particularly in the triangle pieces, so instead I drew some feathers freehand, sprouting from each corner and curving outward.  It turned out great and she was quite pleased.
Straight lines in the 2 outer borders finished it off.  Here's a picture of the back of the quilt.  She had pieced a couple of different yellows for it so it looks quite nifty.   A lot of people have trouble piecing an 8 pointed star and getting it to lay flat without a bubble in the middle.  She did a great job.  The border had a bit of a ripple in it but that was easily disguised when I quilted that part, you can't tell at all where I fixed it.  I haven't seen it since she put the binding on, I'm not sure what she was going to use for it but I'm sure it looks great.  I think I would just use the same print that's in the outer border.  I think she's putting it in our guild's quilt show this fall so I'll see it then.

Now that I'm finished all the work quilts I had for now I've been back to quilting my own stuff.  First I made this dotty one,  in various combinations of lights on lights and then a couple of strips of blues on lights.  All of the blues are different.  I quilted it with variegated blue thread.  It's about 20" x 32" and named "Dot ... dot ... dot ...".

Then there's this one.  I had been thinking about this pattern for a little while, deciding whether to strip piece the background or the front or both, what colors to use, etc.  Finally I decided to strip piece the background in random widths.  I had one particular light fabric that I had found in the remnant bin at the fabric store, it was really cheap because it had been mis-dyed.  There were random blotches of green all over it.  Perfect!  I love pieces like that!  So I put a few strips of that in the background too and that decided for me that I would use a dark green for the appliqué.  I used off-white thread to quilt in the ditch around the & and randomly spaced vertical lines throughout the background.  It's 20" x 26", named "And ...".

For the past few years I've been volunteering a few times a week at the Canuck Place Childrens' Hospice here in Vancouver.  We have so many amazing people there ... volunteers, staff, nurses, families.  We've had a fair bit of staff turnaround this year.  I had been contemplating to, at some point, make a Canuck Place quilt, but as yet had never gotten around to doing it or even figuring out where to start.  Finally I did and made 2 for a couple of staff members. 

 This is the first one I did.  The picture I worked from is above the quilt.  I put fusible interfacing behind the blue siding on the 2nd floor so it would be 3-D when I layered it.  The trees are done the same way, so they look more realistic.  I embroidered all of the fancy doodads on the fence and gate.  
I did the next one from another perspective, using the same basic methods as I did for the first one.  I did both of them from actual photographs that I took of the house, then used a process I've been developing called "Repliqué" to make the pattern to work from.  I first created this process when I made the logos for my NHL quilt a few years ago, and have been fine-tuning it ever since on various types of quilts.  Until now I'd only used it on diagrams or cartoons, logos and such.  This is the first time I've used a picture of an actual real-life thing to recreate on a quilt.  It's been a definite learning process, working out what looks right, what doesn't, what is feasible or doesn't even need to be there, prioritizing what should be pieced, appliquéd, embroidered, or drawn.  To be honest, I'm not eager to make another one anytime soon, but I definitely will make another, and no doubt each time will turn out better than the last.

Now I'm off to work on some owls .... 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Another one done!

Barely two months later and here we have another finished quilt!  I got this one from Wendy on March 18, but didn't have the batting to get it started until a week later, began actually quilting it on March 28 and put the last stitches in today.   It's from the book "In the Meadow" by Barb Adams and Alma Allen of Blackbird Designs.  The finished quilt is about 81"x81" and will hang in Wendy's living room.
 As usual, Wendy provided the quilt top, meaning she did all the lovely bird and leaves applique.  All different reds and greens on a scrappy background.   She does a great job with her applique, I always love the colours she chooses and the patterns are never boring.  She usually has a rough idea of what she wants me to quilt, but leaves most of it up to me.  It's great to have that kind of trust that I'll know what to do for each particular quilt. In this one I did some 1/4" outline stitching in and aound each bird and leaf, with feathers quilted in the birds' wings and tails and a vein through the centre of the larger leaves. 

Even after all of that there were still large gaps of empty space between the blocks, all around the birds.  I took each of those spaces as I came to them, quilting random shapes in each one just to fill the space.  For the border I copied the shapes of 3 different leaves, traced them around the border, then put 1" apart lines around them  One section of the border was a bit wavy so I did 4 "adjustments" to force it to lay flat.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out and I know Wendy will too.  She had gone on vacation and called me today to see how it's coming along.   Good timing, as I had the final corner left to quilt and finished that today.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A whole year already!!??

Wow, it's been a whole year since I posted anything on here .... holy cow, am I ever slack.  Despite all appearances to the contrary, I have actually been quite busy this past year. My cousin and my sister both became grandmothers this past fall!  My cousin's granddaughter, Iris Marion's quilt is all pink and purple squares alternating with a light print with pink and purple hearts appliqued on them.  I quilted hearts into the background.
My sister's grandson Amos's quilt is blue and green with an appliqued bee, snail, ladybug, and grasshopper.  Swirls and hearts are quilted into this one. 

Gord has been nagging, pestering, begging me to make him a Chicago Blackhawks quilt and so far I have refused. Finally this Christmas I gave in. It's done like the front of their jersey with the logo and then stripes at the bottom. Although this one seems to have Orcas quilted into the background ... I wonder if the real ones do .....
I was pretty sure I was going to catch fire while working on it ... my eyes burn just looking at it ... but he's quite pleased and it's hanging in the office now with his NHL quilt. I named it "Booooooo!!"

Besides these smaller projects I have mainly been working on quilting Janet's queen size quilt.  It's from Rosemary Makhen's book "Rose Sampler Supreme".  Janet had actually met Rosemary and taken her course on this pattern a few years ago.  I quilted each block in the ditch around each appliqued piece, then the V grid repeated in each block with hearts in the sashing.  I started it in August 2014, worked on it pretty steadily with a few breaks here and there to do the baby quilts and the evil Blackhawks for christmas, then back to the roses once those were done.  I'm very pleased with how it turned out ... the backing print is perfect for this quilt's colours and  the pattern in it doesn't overpower showing off the quilting from the reverse side of the quilt.  

I broke a couple of toes last week, so I'm giving myself a week off and then I'll be off to the races again on another one ... I'll give Wendy a call soon, she's been so patient waiting for me to be ready to start working on hers.  So far on my week off I've finished the applique on my living room table runner, got some applique done on my Detroit Red Wings banner, some ideas started for possible ebay sells, and I've started getting my Mariners Compass a bit more ready for quilting.  I'm hoping to enter it in my guild's Quilt Show this fall.  I have to sew the corner half-compass blocks on, and now I'm appliqueing multi-blue hummingbirds randomly throughout the quilt.  I honestly don't know if I'll have it ready for the show, but I'm going to do my level best to try.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Betty's quilt

I'm a member of the Vancouver Quilters' Guild ... actually this year I'm Vice President, which means I sit at the head table at meetings with the rest of the executive committee but I don't actually have to DO anything.  Pretty sweet job, that's why I agreed to do it :D

In my guild there is a lady named Betty.  She's been going to this guild for many, many years and has been reputed as the resident hand-quilter.  Now she's getting quite up in age and is finding it difficult to do her hand work ... I can only imagine how heart-breaking that must be for her.  A friend of mine had told me that Betty had been eying up my work for a few years now, watching how I do things, how my stitches look, etc.  She knew the day would come that she wouldn't be able to do her own quilting and was looking for someone she could trust to do it for her.

At our October guild meeting she approached me and asked if I would quilt for her.  I have to admit I was/am pretty honored that she wanted me to do it, considering the reputation she has in the guild.  Her quilt is a queen size, all hand appliqued.  Here's how it looks so far.  I reckon I'm about 2/3 of the way done.  I take pictures to update her on the progress every meeting.  I'm hoping to be done it for our April meeting, but we'll see.  Luckily she's not in a hurry for it, but I do want to get it done asap.  
It's funny though, how when I have no major projects going I can't think of what I want to do next.  Yet when I have something big to work on that needs to get done I'm full of ideas of all sorts of new designs I want to get started.  Anyhow, fingers crossed for April.  Looking good so far!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Preparing a quilt for hand quilting

In this grand age of technology more and more people are choosing to machine quilt.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against machine quilters or their work ... like anything else, if they know what they're doing they get fantastic results, and you can't argue with the speediness that they are able to get things done.
Personally, I prefer hand quilting.  It's all I've ever done ... I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in learning to machine quilt.  I do some piecing and binding on my machine, but that's pretty much it.  
I've been hand quilting since 1998.  I am by no means the best at it, but I'm up there. My stitches are small and even, which is what counts in hand quilting.  Besides my own quilts, I'm also what I call a "hit quilter" ... like a hit-man, I'm a quilter for hire.  I usually get about 5 quilts a year to do for customers; some pieced, some applique ... so here are a few tips for anyone who is contemplating having their quilt hand quilted.  (note:  I use "she" when referring to the quilter, since I'm a she, no offense to the male quilters out there)
  • Remove all of your tiny straight pins
  • Remove all of your tiny straight pins
  • Remove all of your tiny straight pins
I don't think I can repeat that rule enough.  I'm not a person who swears a whole lot, but one sure way to see the air around me turn blue is to catch me discovering a tiny straight pin hidden in the layers of some applique.  Nine times out of ten it gets rammed up under my thumbnail ... this pretty much puts a halt to all quilting for a couple of days until it heals enough to hold a needle again.
  • Trim behind applique layers.  Nothing disrupts the cohesiveness of a beautifully quilted design like unevenness, but it is virtually impossible to continue with the same size stitches if the texture of the quilt changes.  The thicker the piece, the bigger the stitches will be.  The best way to prevent this is to remove the extra layers behind the appliqued sections.
  • Do not layer or baste your quilt until you have spoken to your quilter.  As with everything else, every quilter has a preference when it comes to this.  If she doesn't have a lot of space she may want you to do it before handing it over.  Depending on how she actually quilts, she may request a particular basting method.  Personally, I prefer to layer and baste the quilt myself.  I want to see the back of the quilt top to make sure there's nothing funky going on in there that may cause a snag in the quilting.  Plus I don't use a hoop or frame, I quilt loosely in my lap, so I want it basted with bent basting pins (size 2) as shown here.  I use a minimal number of pins spaced in a particular way so as to hold the quilt together without getting in my way.  Many times I've received a quilt that has been thread basted or pinned with tiny safety pins ... I end up spending half a day taking it all out and re-basting myself.
  • Ask about her preference when it comes to batting and backing.  As does layered applique, the choice of batting and backing can have an effect on the quality and stitch size of hand quilting.  One of the first quilts I was hired to hand quilt had flannel backing and thick cotton batting.  It was a king size Double Irish Chain with velvet for the diagonal squares throughout.  A beautiful quilt, no question about it, but I came to think of it as the Quilt from Hell ... it was too thick to get a very small stitch, plus it was so bloody heavy I had a hard time manipulating it as I hand quilted.
  • Ask about thread.  I generally provide the thread for my jobs unless the customer wants a particular type used.  Some thread is made for hand quilting, some unsuitable for hand quilting, some are ridiculously impossible.  Remember that machine thread is not the same as hand quilting thread.  Metallic and rayon threads are not for hand quilting, though if your quilt is a wall-hanging and you want special fancy thread used in a few areas, it can probably be managed.    I always keep a variety of thread colors on hand.  I have a fair amount of white and off-white, plus solid colors and various variegated.
  • Ask to see samples of her work ahead of time.  This is particularly important if you are not already acquainted with her.  I don't know any quilters, machine or hand, who would not want to show off what she has done.  If she hesitates, you may want to find someone else.
  • Settle on a price beforehand.  Some quilters charge by time, others by size, but regardless she should be able to at least give you a near estimate.  She may want half up front, particularly if she is providing the batting and/or backing.
Remember that as with anything else communication is the key.  Don't assume anything and don't hesitate to ask questions.  You are spending your money on this, so you need to be sure you are getting what you want and expect.  Also, your quilter needs to know what that is so she can do her job.