Why is it that the days in December seem 2 hours shorter and my To-do list is 2 hours longer? Can we postpone Christmas for a week or so? No point – I still wouldn’t be ready! Inevitably, someone on my list will get a “potential” gift, a.k.a. an I.O.U. The people on my list have wizened up over the years, and stopped requesting gifts that might need to be made. Now they ask for gift cards.
If you’ve been extra good this year and your significant other is looking for something special for you, I have the perfect suggestion: a 15-day Australia & New Zealand cruise for mid-February 2016! The folks at Quilt Camp at Sea (www.quiltcampatsea.com) have asked me to teach 2 sets of classes on this cruise, so I will be doing hand sashiko
and fusible appliqué landscape. The hubby has once again offered to carry my bags. It seems like such a long way off, but I know that spots fill up quickly, and some of my classes are already full. Pat and Len do such an amazing job of taking care of every detail on these cruises, and many of the cruisers already booked on this trip have been on several previous cruises with our group. My quilting “bud” Dodi Poulson is also teaching on this cruise, and I am really looking forward to cruising with her again. Dodi and I taught on the Panama cruise earlier this year, and her classes are always popular. Now, some of you are asking “What if I don’t have a significant other?” Treat yourself, of course! This will fit nicely in your own stocking. Hands up, all those who put stuff in their own stockings. I do! Heck! My stocking would be half-empty if I didn’t. I put in “fun” stuff like new silicone spatulas, emery boards and tubes of hand lotion. Of course, it would be nice to get quilty stuff like cones of variegated King Tut thread and packs of rotary cutter blades, but my family doesn’t even know what a rotary cutter is.
Speaking of quilty Christmas stuff, I was featured yesterday on Electric Quilt’s blog – they are doing a Christmas Countdown, with 21 days of free projects. I posted the project that I made with Northcott’s Christmas Traditions collection that was patterned in Quiltmaker magazine’s Quilts From 100 Blocks earlier this year. If you get a chance, pop on over to EQ’s blog and see all of the projects (http://doyoueq.com/blog/2014/12/ ). My friend Linda Franz of Inklingo is today’s featured artist, and she has some terrific give-aways on her blog. In 2015, I want to learn more of the fabulous features built in to EQ (wow! – a New Year’s resolution already).
I used EQ to design my eye-catching Emerald Dawn quilt featured in the January/February 2015 issue of McCall’s Quilting. It is made with the Artisan Spirit – Falling Leaves collection by award-winning Canadian fiber artist Elaine Quehl. Elaine hand-dyes her own fabrics, and Northcott’s Creative Director Deborah Edwards managed to recreate Elaine’s look with printed fabric. There is even a pre-printed fabric that looks like one of Elaine’s quilts. The spread in the magazine looks fabulous. I was especially thrilled to see that Sherry Bain Driver highlighted my quilt in her column on quilting. The quilt has a fairly wide outer border, and I stretched myself with my quilting in the border to break it up and modernize it. Sherry noticed! Elaine’s next collection is Poppy Passion, based on her Poppy quilt, and I can’t wait to play with this one too! The colors are luscious.
Speaking of quilting, I am waaaay behind on quilting tips for you! In my post from forever ago (April), I said that I would include a quilting tip in each post this year. I am 5 tips behind, so let’s get started.
1) I baste the layers of my quilt together with a basting gun. My favorite is the June Tailor or Avery Dennison one because the needle is small. I don’t like the June Tailor Micro-tack because, while the needle is very small, the tacks are too short for my method of basting. Use the needle of the gun as you would the tip of a safety pin.
Take a small “stitch” with the needle of the basting gun
To baste the layers, insert the needle down through all 3 layers at a slight angle, then come back up through to the top at a slight angle, taking only 1/8” of backing fabric. Use your index finger on your other hand to hold the quilt down while you bring the needle back up and push the fabric onto the needle while you “click” the gun (push the tack through the fabric). You can’t take a big “stitch” of backing fabric because the tack isn’t very long. Notice that all 3 layers are held tightly together and cannot shift. Be careful not to put too much sideways pressure on the needle or it will break. I always have 1 back-up needle just in case. I put my tacks 8” apart because I am free-motion quilting and there is no pull on the quilt from the feed dogs on my machine. It takes me 5 minutes to baste a small lap quilt, and 20 minutes to baste a queen-size one, including layering time.
2) I wear Quilter’s Gloves by Nancy Odom. They are the best $10 you will spend. Once upon a time, I took a workshop from Laura Heine, and noticed that she had cut the finger tips off of her gloves.
Nancy Odom’s Quilters Gloves with the tips cut off
That day, I also took a workshop on ergonomics for quilters, and learned that the less pressure we apply with our hands and specifically our fingertips, the easier it is on our arms, shoulders and neck. I went home and cut the tips off my gloves too, and now I don’t need to take my gloves off every time I need to wind a bobbin or rethread my needle. I had actually worn holes in the tips of my gloves and darned them closed (by hand!). You really want the palm of your hand to be the part of your glove making contact with your quilt – it has a much bigger surface area than the tips of your fingers. Think of this like car tires – you have much better traction with big fat tires than with skinny tires. Your gloves should be snug, so that when you move your hand on the quilt, your hand is actually moving the quilt and not just moving inside the baggy glove.
3) Do not watch the needle. I guarantee that it will just go up and down. Instead, look where you want your next segment of quilting to be. Here’s another car analogy: When you drive, you look down the road where you are planning on going instead of looking at your hood ornament. If you look where you are planning to stitch next, you will avoid boxing yourself into a corner and your quilting will be much smoother.
4) Use heavier thread (King Tut is great) and choose something that contrasts nicely with your quilt. When you can see your stitches, your quilting tends to be more evenly-spaced. You will need some larger needles, such as 90/14 and 100/16 Jeans needles, so that the thread can run easily.
5) When I stipple, I work from the bottom edge of the quilt up toward the top edge of the quilt. This is opposite to how most quilters sew – we sew from top to bottom. However, I find that if I quilt top-to-bottom, I am constantly backing into an area that I have already quilted, particularly if I am using a matching thread that is hard to see. The sewing machine foot blocks my view of what is behind it.
When we went to Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh, we took our graphic designer Ghazal, who is taking quite an interest in quilting. Ghazal was like a kid in a candy store as she walked the show floor. She saw a pattern that she had to have, in a book by Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr called Transparency Quilts. Ghazal set a goal of having her Jewel Box wall hanging done by August 1.
A jubilant Ghazal with her Transparency quilt
On our lunch hours, she worked diligently on her quilt while I provided instruction, including the 5 tips above. She was a terrific student! Her finished quilt is hanging in her home. She is now onto her 3rd project, a quilt for her bed. Ghazal’s style is modern, and it is refreshing to see the quilt world through her eyes.
I took on another interesting non-quilting project this year – my cousin asked me if I would make his daughter’s grad dress.
Emma and her prom date
I made her mother’s wedding dress 25 years ago, and was honored and delighted to make Emma’s grad dress. It was fun to go back to my garment-sewing roots, and this project certainly tested my skills and knowledge of dressmaking. Emma showed me a picture of what she wanted, and I took it from there.
Emma with her friend
Some garments are engineered, and this was one of them (the top part of the dress had no back). The sewing was fairly simple, although it was “interesting” sewing with the beaded fabric that I used for the top. Emma looked stunning in her gown, and I was thrilled with the result.
May your holidays be filled with peace and joy, and of good food shared with great friends and family.